Obama talks jobs, not healthcare, from Asia

President Barack Obama on Saturday pledged a “relentless” approach to the U.S. economic recovery, claiming progress during his Asian trip in opening up foreign markets to American goods.

Obama tackled the sputtering economy, climate change and even the spread of nuclear weapons in his address, which he recorded from Seoul, South Korea, noting that he was completing his first presidential trip to Asia.

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The president focused his remarks on the economy, however, saying he pressured Asian leaders to allow more U.S. exports and to work with U.S. leaders on climate-change efforts.

“Asia is a region where we now buy more goods and do more trade with than any other place in the world – commerce that supports millions of jobs back home,” Obama said. “It’s also a place where the risk of a nuclear arms race threatens our security, and where extremists plan attacks on America’s soil. And since this region includes some of the fastest-growing nations, there can be no solution to the challenge of climate change without the cooperation of the Asia Pacific.

“Above all, I spoke with leaders in every nation I visited about what we can do to sustain this economic recovery and bring back jobs and prosperity for our people – a task I will continue to focus on relentlessly in the weeks and months ahead.”

Obama’s remarks come as the federal government released statistics this month that put the national unemployment rate at 10.2 percent — a number the president called “sobering.” Senate Democrats are considering legislation to spur job creation, but the effort has been overwhelmed by the ongoing battle over healthcare reform. Party leaders plan to pursue such a bill early next year.

Specifically, Obama said he “developed a host of new clean energy initiatives” with China and also raised the issue of human rights. China has been seen as reluctant in agreeing to reduce its carbon emissions, claiming its economy is still evolving.

Obama tied the U.S. economy directly to Asia’s openness to U.S. products, noting that an increase of just 5 percent in U.S. exports to Asia Pacific nations could produce hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

The president also announced he would host a forum at the White House in the coming weeks to scour for ideas on economic growth.

“I want to hear from CEOs and small business owners, economists and financial experts, as well as representatives from labor unions and nonprofit groups, about what they think we can do to spur hiring and get this economy moving again,” Obama said.