Obama acknowledged that differences on rights were "an occasional source of tension between our two governments."
He said at a joint news conference with Hu at the White House, "We have some core views as Americans about the universality of certain rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly."
Obama said he drove that home forcefully in his discussions with the Chinese leader, but "that doesn't prevent us from cooperating in these other critical areas."
For Hu's part, he declined to respond to an American reporter's question on human rights differences between the two countries.
In a sign of the growing economic bonds between the two superpowers, Obama said the countries had made business deals that would mean $45 billion in new U.S. exports. Obama also said China was taking significant steps to curtail the theft of intellectual property and expand U.S. investment.
Obama said China had become "one of the top markets for American exports" and that these exports have helped to support a half million U.S. jobs.
Hu said he and Obama had agreed to "share expanding common interests."
"We both agreed to further push forward the positive cooperative and comprehensive China-U.S. relationship and commit to work together to build a China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to better benefit people in our own countries and the world over," Hu said.
Hu, speaking through a translator, said both countries should "respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests."
Obama said, "I absolutely believe China's peaceful rise is good for the world, and it's good for America."
As both countries continue to recover from the global economic crisis - a recovery that began in China well before it did in the U.S. and other developed nations - the United States increasingly sees China as a market for its goods, Obama said.
"We want to sell you all kinds of stuff," Obama told Hu. "We want to sell you planes, we want to sell you cars, we want to sell you software.
"And as President Hu and his government refocuses the economy on expanding domestic demand, that offers opportunity for U.S. businesses that ultimately translates into jobs."