Story highlights

The president announces the creation of a new trade enforcement unit

Obama: "If the playing field is level, I promise you -- America will always win"

He addresses Afghanistan and immigration reform in State of the Union address

On Iran, Obama says no options are "off the table"

Washington CNN  — 

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday the creation of a new trade enforcement unit that will be tasked with investigating unfair trade practices in countries, he said, “like China.”

It was one of a handful of comments on international issues the president made during his annual State of the Union address, which mostly focused on domestic matters and the economy.

President Obama challenges Congress on sticky issues

“It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized,” Obama said. “I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules.”

“Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you – America will always win,” he added.

There was no immediate response to the president’s comments from China, which is celebrating the New Year this week.

For years, U.S. officials have been pressuring China to allow its renminbi – or yuan – to appreciate more rapidly. From 2008 and 2010, China had pegged the yuan to the dollar, keeping its value artificially low and Chinese exports comparatively cheap. Meanwhile, China has called on the United States to loosen export regulations.

China has the world’s second largest economy after the United States.

Here are some of the other international issues the president touched on during his address:

Immigration reform

Obama did not break new ground when he said lawmakers should work on a comprehensive plan and support a path to citizenship for some young people brought to the United States as children.

“If election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away,” he said.

Obama was likely describing the DREAM Act, a Democratic measure pushed by the president that provides a pathway to legal residency for children of illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.


The Middle Eastern nation is “more isolated than ever,” Obama said, vowing to keep the heat on over Tehran’s suspected nuclear ambitions.

Iran says its nuclear program is not military, but the United States and many of its allies suspect Iran intends to produce a bomb. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed similar concerns.

“Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal,” the president said during his address. “A peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”


Obama said the U.S.-led war there is winding down and that the transition to local control will continue.

Next year, U.S. troops will begin shifting away from combat to a training and advising role. The goal is to let Afghan security forces increasingly take the lead as the U.S. looks to withdraw most of its troops by the end of 2014.

“This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America,” the president said.