By Alister Bull and Patricia Zengerle
(Updates with more details)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said
Thursday he wants to advance free trade agreements with U.S.
partners, including important ally South Korea, and repeated a
vow to double America's exports over the next five years.
"We hope to move forward on new trade agreements with some
of our key partners in a way that doesn't just advance the
interests of our businesses, workers and farmers, but also
upholds our most cherished values," Obama said at the White
The president hopes to augment weak domestic demand by
boosting sales abroad as he fights unemployment near 10 percent
and flagging U.S. growth.
U.S. economic uncertainty has alarmed voters, who could
take this anger out on Obama's Democrats in Nov. 2
congressional midterm elections.
But trade is a touchy topic for many Americans, who blame
the loss of well-paid U.S. jobs on competition from foreign
importers in sectors like the battered U.S. auto industry, a
particular issue for the trade deal with South Korea.
"We're also working to resolve outstanding issues with our
free trade agreements with our key partners, like Korea, and to
seek congressional approval as soon as possible," Obama said.
He made no direct mention of concluding trade pacts with
Colombia and Panama.
Obama has said he wants to resolve outstanding concerns
over a trade pact with South Korea by November, when he will
visit the country to attend a Group of 20 leaders summit, so he
can submit the agreement to Congress by early next year.
U.S. lawmakers will have to turn quickly to the trade pact
after the November election, in which Republicans are predicted
to make gains against the Democrats, in order to be in time for
the G20 on Nov. 11-12.
The president was marking the release of a National Export
Initiative report, produced by his "export promotion cabinet"
of top advisers and government agencies to help meet his goal
of augmenting U.S. growth by doubling exports by 2015.
He cited boosting the number of U.S. trade missions abroad,
removing trade barriers and boosting the availability of trade
finance as tangible steps to assist U.S. companies to export.
"We think we can move rapidly on some of these fronts, and
we're pleased to see the fresh and innovative strategies we can
pursue to help small and medium sized companies sell their
goods and services abroad," he said.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, editing by Chris
Wilson and Vicki Allen)