Obama Uses Factory Visit to Tout US Competitiveness, Job Growth
President Barack Obama on Friday continued his efforts to spur job creation and build confidence in the U.S. economy, as he visited a General Electric factory in New York state. The president appointed the company’s chief executive to head a special panel aimed at helping to create jobs.
The president’s visit to the GE energy division plant in Schenectady, New York, is part of a renewed effort in the new year to focus attention on parts of the economy that are working, including companies manufacturing goods for export.
The plant was in the spotlight during President Obama’s Asia trip last November. It is manufacturing power-turbines that are being exported to India and other countries under a package of deals announced in India.
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After touring the plant, the president said it represents America’s creative and innovative potential in an economy facing intense competition from around the world. “America is still home to the most creative and the most innovative businesses in the world. We’ve got the most productive workers in the world. America is home to inventors, and dreamers, and builders, and creators,” he said.
Mr. Obama announced he is appointing the Chief Executive Officer of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, to head a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Immelt was previously a member of a special presidential advisory panel on economic recovery.
Introducing the president, Immelt noted that 90 percent of the products at the factory are exported. “We know at GE the future is given to no one, we have to compete, we have to win, and I know that this team can compete with anybody in the world, we can absolutely do what it takes,” he said.
Mr. Obama’s visit came a few days before his State of the Union speech next Tuesday likely to focus on the need for innovation in the U.S. economy if it is to remain competitive on a global stage with countries such as China and India.
The president also referred to his just-completed talks in Washington with China’s President Hu Jintao. The administration announced $45 billion worth of business deals during Chinese leader’s visit.
“We struck a deal to open Chinese markets to our products. They’re selling here, and that’s fine, but we want to sell there. We want to open up their markets so that we [have] two-way trade and not just one-way trade,” said Mr. Obama.
The president also pointed to the successful negotiation of a free trade agreement with South Korea, saying it will support more than 70,000 American jobs.
With the nation’s unemployment rate still stuck well above nine percent, President Obama also used his remarks in Schenectady to focus on growth in the economy, including the addition of more than one million jobs.
However, the president said again that he knows millions of Americans are still out of work, and growth is not yet rapid enough to make up for the damage caused by the recession.