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Obama pushes manufacturing, fair trade with China

By Dan Merica and Alan Silverleib, CNN
updated 3:41 PM EST, Fri February 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Obama pushes manufacturing, export agenda during visit to Boeing
  • NEW: Obama says Americans "will always win" if there is a level playing field with other countries
  • NEW: Obama pushes for a series of tax changes to promote domestic manufacturing
  • The speech comes days after the president's meeting with China's vice president

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama trumpeted his manufacturing and export agenda Friday, telling a crowd in Washington state that the American economy is poised for a strong, long-term recovery with the right kind of government assistance.

"The last few decades haven't been easy for manufacturing," the president said during a tour of Boeing's assembly plant in Everett. But "in this country we don't give up even when times are tough."

Americans "don't have to sit there and settle for a lesser future," he asserted.

Obama's remarks were made on the third day of a West Coast swing mixed with policy announcements and political events. Among other things, he discussed the need to provide greater export financing to American manufacturing companies while expanding support for small business.

He hit on the need to ensure fairer trading practices with China -- a political hot button in the current campaign. Several of Obama's Republican critics have attacked the administration for failing to do more to reduce America's trade imbalance with the growing Asian power.

"I will go anywhere in the world to open up new markets for American products," Obama said. "If we have a level playing field, America will always win because we have the best workers."

The speech -- built on the administration's "Blueprint for an America to Last" -- came three days after a litany of administration officials, including the president and Vice President Joe Biden, met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Washington.

During the speech, the president highlighted his promise to double American exports over five years -- a goal he said is on track to be reached ahead of schedule.

Obama pushed Congress in his speech to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the official credit agency tasked with helping to finance the foreign purchase of goods from American companies who are unable to accept the credit risk themselves. In 2011, the bank provided $41 billion in financing to over 3,600 U.S. companies.

According to a White House news release, these "programs come at no cost to U.S. taxpayers, as the (bank) not only operates on a self-sustaining basis, but it has returned well over $3 billion to the U.S. Treasury since 2005."

Obama also said he wants to help American firms get matching support to counter financing that other multinational companies are receiving from their governments. He encouraged Congress to reform the tax code to discourage overseas manufacturing while providing additional support to manufacturers that make cutting edge products or set up shop in economically depressed areas.

Obama was scheduled to visit two campaign fundraisers following his visit to Boeing.

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