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Obama Ties Foreign Trip to Domestic Economy

Obama Ties Foreign Trip to Domestic Economy

By Scott Conroy - November 5, 2010


President Obama on Friday framed his impending 10-day jaunt to Asia as a critical endeavor to improve the U.S. economy and sought to use the longest foreign trip of his presidency as a starting ground for a new spirit of bipartisanship following sweeping Republican victories on Election Day.

"The most important competition that we face in this new century will not be between Democrats and Republicans," Obama told reporters in the White House. "It's the competition with countries around the world to lead the global economy, and our success or failure in this race will depend on whether we can come together as a nation."

During Obama's visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan, the president will focus on trade talks and regional strategy for addressing concerns over Chinese aggression. But in the aftermath of resounding GOP victories that swung the House of Representatives to the Republicans, confirming the extent voter discontent with his administration's rate of economic progress, another of Obama's main goals will be to communicate his transition away from the political season and back to the difficult slog of governing in a new Washington reality.

"Our future depends on putting politics aside to solve problems - to worry about the next generation instead of the next election," Obama said. "We can't spend the next two years mired in gridlock. Other countries like China aren't standing still, so we can't stand still either."

Obama had some positive economic news to report to coincide with the start of his trip, as he announced that the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in October, marking better than expected gains and four straight months of private sector job growth of over 100,000 jobs.

But the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.6 percent, and Obama was careful to avoid any hint of contentment.

"The unemployment rate is still unexpectedly high, and we've got a lot of work to do," Obama said. "An encouraging jobs report doesn't make a difference if you're still one of the millions of people looking for work, and I won't be satisfied until everyone who is looking for a job can find one."

In a nod to newly empowered House Republicans, Obama said that he was open to proposals to stimulate the economy, including ideas for tax breaks to benefit small businesses, tax cuts to make it cheaper for entrepreneurs to start companies, research and innovation promotion, and extending unemployment benefits.

But in addressing expected criticisms that he was skipping town after his party suffered massive political defeats, Obama focused his remarks on explaining how his foreign trip was critical to the goal of improving the economy back home.

"It's also absolutely clear that one of the keys to creating jobs is opening markets to American goods made by American workers," Obama said, noting his goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. "And that's why on the trip I'm about to take, I'm going to be talking about opening up additional markets in places like India, so that American businesses can sell more products abroad in order to create more jobs here at home."

Obama is scheduled to begin his trip by spending three full days in India, the longest amount of time spent in one country during his presidency to date, when he will meet with U.S. business leaders and Indian government officials in Mumbai and New Delhi.

On Thursday, Obama told reporters that the main purpose of his India visit was "to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia - in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world - and we can create jobs here in the United States of America."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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