Obama to push next week for doubling U.S. exports
Fri Mar 5, 2010 3:52pm ESTRelated NewsObama trade talk cheers business groups
Wed, Feb 24 2010WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will repeat his promise to double U.S. exports in five years during a speech at the Export-Import Bank next week, the White House said on Friday.

The speech is to take place at the bank's annual conference on Thursday.

"He will reiterate his commitment to doubling exports in five years, which he proposed during the State of the Union address," the White House said in a statement, referring to Obama's address to Congress in January.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office on Monday released Obama's annual trade agenda, which also stressed the goal of doubling exports.

But Republicans, such as Senator Charles Grassley, say Obama still needs to fill in many of the details of how he would achieve that goal. They are wary of plans to boost funding for export promotion without first seeing details of how the money will be spent.

They also want Obama, a Democrat, to outline his plans for resolving problems that have blocked approval of free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama for years.

Business groups spent much of 2009 waiting in vain for Obama to deliver a promised speech on trade in which he would lay out his ideas for advancing trade liberalization.

It never came, although Obama has spoken frequently in recent months on the need for the United States to boost exports to help spur U.S. economic growth.

His speech next week comes just a few days before the first round of talks in Melbourne, Australia, on the Transpacific Partnership, the first big trade initiative of Obama's presidency.

Republicans support the TPP, but question the credibility of the effort when the administration still has not resolved problems blocking congressional approval of the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTAs after more than a year in office.

The TPP would create a regional free trade agreement initially covering the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam and Brunei. The administration hopes it could be expanded later to include other countries in the region.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Doug Palmer)