Thursday, March 11, 2010

Obama details plans to boost exports, create jobs

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama sought Thursday to put some detail behind his lofty drive to double U.S. exports over the next five years, calling the effort imperative to putting people back to work. But doubts remain about how many net jobs his trade agenda will create - and how he will get it done.

In a speech to the Export-Import Bank conference, Obama outlined steps to flesh out his trade initiative. Among them: creating a mini-Cabinet of officials to focus on exports, seeking more financing to support trade efforts, beefing up enforcement of existing trade deals and pushing for the completion of stalled ones.

"We shouldn't assume that our leadership is guaranteed," Obama said. "When other markets are growing, and other nations are competing, we've got to get even better. We need to secure our companies a level playing field. We need to guarantee American workers a fair shake. In other words, we need to up our game."

Obama's trade pitch ties directly to the top concerns of Americans - the bleeding of jobs from the U.S. He promised in his State of the Union address that doubling trade over the next five years will support 2 million American jobs, a pledge he repeated Thursday. But that's a complicated matter.

Experts say potential jobs from more exports can be negated by job losses resulting from increased reliance on products from abroad. What's more, it is Obama's own Democratic Party, backed by its union supporters, that has led opposition to stalled trade-expansion pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

When Obama says that doubling exports will "support" 2 million jobs, he means it will create 2 million additional jobs, the White House said. That is based on an assessment of how many jobs are supported by foreign demand for the goods and services that the United States exports.

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