The White House has announced that President Obama will sign an executive order creating the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The chairman will be Jeff Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric.
Immelt referred to the new council in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, saying it would comprise representatives of small and large businesses, labor, economists and government and expressing hope it would serve as “a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness.”
And what action does America need? Immelt identified manufacturing, exports and innovation as priorities. From “A blueprint for keeping America competitive“:
Manufacturing and exports: We need a coordinated commitment among business, labor and government to expand our manufacturing base and increase exports. The assumption made by many that the United States could transition from a technology-based, export-oriented economic powerhouse to a services-led, consumption-based economy without any serious loss of jobs, prosperity or prestige was fundamentally wrong. But there is nothing inevitable about America’s declining manufacturing competitiveness if we work together to reverse it. For example, we have returned many GE appliance manufacturing jobs to the States by collaborating with our unions and making our operations more efficient.
Working with Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who leads the President’s Export Council, the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will look for ways to harness the power of international markets – home to more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers. Currently, the United States ranks lowest among the world’s largest manufacturing nations in the ratio of domestically produced goods sold overseas, or export intensity. We must set as our highest economic priority not just increasing our exports, as the president has pledged, but also making the United States the world’s leading exporter in the 21st century.
Free trade: America cannot expand its manufacturing base without greatly increasing the volume of goods it sells overseas. That is why I applaud the free-trade agreement recently concluded between the United States and South Korea, which will eliminate barriers to U.S. exports and support export-oriented jobs. We should seek to conclude trade and investment agreements with other fast-growing markets and modernize our systems for export finance and trade control. Those who advocate increasing domestic manufacturing jobs by erecting trade barriers have it exactly wrong.
Immelt is scheduled to host President Obama on a tour of GE’s Schenectady operations this afternoon.
The White House is also letting it be known that competitiveness will be a major theme of the President’s State of the Union address next Tuesday.
Executive orders on regulations and now a council for jobs and competitiveness are good things. The President could demonstrate his support for policies to match the goals of the orders by acting quickly to submit the pending free trade agreements (Korea, Panama, Colombia) to Congress for enactment. And then rein in the EPA.