Obama: Hu meeting showed he's 'serious' about fighting for jobs

President Obama in his weekly radio address Saturday touted recent White House efforts on behalf of U.S. exporters aimed at tackling the stubbornly high unemployment rate.

The address can be seen as part of Obama’s quest to build ties with the business community, which has viewed him as increasing burdensome regulations while resisting submitting free trade pacts to Congress for approval.


Obama announced an initiative to go after unnecessary regulations this week, but chose to focus his radio address on trade.

Obama highlighted the $45 billion in trade deals announced during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit this week. He also played up the creation of a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness headed by GE CEO Jeff Immelt and intended to serve as a pro-business idea-factory for the administration.

“If we’re serious about fighting for American jobs and American businesses, one of the most important things we can do is open up more markets to American goods around the world,” Obama says. “That’s why I met with China’s President Hu Jintao at the White House this past week. “

Obama highlighted that currently the U.S. exports $100 billion in goods and services a year to China and this week China agreed to buy $45 billion more. 

The new deals include the purchase of 200 Boeing aircraft, and a contract for GE to manufacture locomotives.

The administration has been less successful in getting China to allow its currency the renminbi to float against the dollar. The undervalued Chinese currency makes U.S. goods too expensive in China and Chinese goods unfairly underpriced when exported here, the administration argues.

Obama did not reference currency in the radio address.

Instead, he used the address to tout his successful renegotation of the South Korea free trade agreement in December.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was able to obtain greater access for U.S. automobiles into South Korea and a delay in the lowering of the U.S. tariff on Korean autos. The administration will seek congressional approval of the deal, which is opposed by most labor unions, in the first six months of this year.

Obama announced the Immelt appointment in a trip to a GE factory in Schenectady, N.Y., on Friday.

“The purpose of this council is to help us find ways to grow our economy by investing in our businesses here at home. And under Jeff’s leadership, I’m confident that they’ll generate good ideas about how we can spur hiring, educate our workers to compete in the 21st century, and attract the best jobs and businesses to America rather than seeing them spring up overseas,” Obama said in the address.

Immelt's appointment can also be seen as an overture, to a degree, to Republicans. The GE CEO has donated thousands to Republican candidates and committees over the years, though he's helped fund some Democratic campaigns as well.

Immelt in past meetings has pressed Obama to name more figures from the business world to his administration. The selection of J.P. Morgan banker William Daley as the White House chief of staff is seen in part as bowing to the demands of business.

Obama ended the address on a confident note about U.S. competitiveness.

“I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth,” he said.