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Obama promises to ‘unlock’ America’s productivity
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WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama expressed his determination Saturday to “unlock the productivity” of American workers to make the country more competitive in a technology-driven economy.

“I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth,” Obama said in his weekly radio address.

“We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy,” he added.

The president also referred to a raft of trade deals worth $45 billion the United States and China announced Wednesday as the two powers tried to narrow disputes by tethering their economic fortunes.

Lauding 70 trade agreements with exporters in 12 US states, presidents Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, edged away from the fevered rhetoric of recent months to stress mutual dependency, despite lingering tensions.

Obama expressed hope for a renewal of relations, casting aside “old stereotypes” and allowing US firms to more easily benefit from China’s breakneck development.

In Saturday’s address, Obama said that as a result of deals completed this past week, US exports to China would increase by more than $45 billion, and China?s investments in America by several billion dollars.

“Most important, these deals will support some 235,000 American jobs. And that includes a lot of manufacturing jobs,” the US president stressed.

Chinese businesses have descended on the United States to coincide with Hu’s visit, inking agreements with US titans Alcoa, General Electric, Honeywell, Westinghouse and Caterpillar among others.

The deals span sectors as diverse as agriculture, gasification, railways and hybrid buses.

“These will inject fresh momentum into our bilateral cooperation,” Hu said.

The meeting did however touch on US complaints that China does not adequately protect copyright and unfairly discriminates against foreign firms in competitions for lucrative government contracts.

Obama said the leaders had made some toward resolving each of those issues.

Hu was said to have agreed to make it easier for US firms to tap procurement contracts issued outside the central government, a market worth more than $88 billion dollars each year.

On Thursday, Hu also urged the United States to ease restrictions on high-tech exports to China.

“China wishes to work with the United States to fully tap our cooperation potential in fiscal, financial, energy, environmental, infrastructure development and other fields,” the Chinese leader said in a speech to political and business leaders in Chicago.

Obama also praised a recently concluded trade agreement with South Korea, saying that will support more than 70,000 American jobs.

In December, President Obama’s administration sealed a deal to end 95 percent of tariffs between the United States and South Korea, revising a 2007 pact negotiated under president George W. Bush that went nowhere in Congress.

The free trade agreement enjoys support from senior lawmakers, with revisions on auto tariffs in the new text winning over automaker Ford and the United Auto Workers union — former staunch opponents.

But the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor federation and usually a staunch ally of Obama’s Democratic Party, opposes the deal which it says will not fundamentally protect workers in troubled economic times.

Obama stressed the need of making everything that is necessary to uphold “America’s global economic leadership.”

“Leading the world in innovation. Opening new markets to American products. That’s how we’ll create jobs today,” the president pointed out. “That’s how we’ll make America more competitive tomorrow. And that’s how we’ll win the future.”

This video is from the White House, broadcast Jan. 22, 2011.

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