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Obama seeks new tone with big business (AFP)

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Wednesday took steps to ease an atmosphere of confrontation with big business, wooing corporate chief executives in a bid to unleash a hiring spree to battle high unemployment.

After two years of tense relations, Obama and boardroom titans from major US firms emerged from four hours of private talks expressing optimism they can launch a new common mission to trigger exports, growth and job creation.

Obama suggested that the CEOs, cheered by his deal with Republicans on extending tax cuts, said he was confident he had made progress in convincing US firms to use some of their billions of dollars in cash reserves on new hiring.

“We focused on jobs and investments, and they feel optimistic that by working together we can get some of that cash off the sidelines,” Obama said after the meeting.

The president gathered an all-star line-up or corporate chiefs at the Blair House guest house opposite the White House as part of his political repositioning after suffering a Republican rout during mid-term elections.

Critics have claimed Obama has little in common with entrepreneurs and business leaders and has made big firms a target in populist electioneering, but he sought to change the tone before going into the talks.

“I believe that the primary engine of America’s economic success is not government, it is the ingenuity of America’s entrepreneurs, it is the dynamism of our markets,” Obama said.

Some CEOs praised the president’s attitude as they left the meeting, and said Obama had drilled down into the details of economic policy, as he seeks to speed up the US recovery from the worst recession in many decades.

“We found a very engaged president,” said Boeing president and CEO James McNerney in an interview with CNBC.

The session was different in tone and different in the level of detail that “most of us have had interacting with the president before,” McNerney said.

“Quite frankly it was heartening.”

Dave Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International, who served on Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission that recommended cutting the budget deficit, said Obama was aware of the debt time bomb facing the US economy.

“I would say he is a smart guy and understands the significance of this national debt and what is going to happen,” Cote told CNBC.

Though the talks were behind closed doors, the imagery of the event seemed calculated to show a president confidently reaching out to big business for new ideas, as he seeks to court voters turned off by Washington’s political wars.

On a frigid morning, a beaming Obama jauntily strode out of the White House gates across the road to the official Blair House guest house where the CEOs had gathered, apparently trying to show he meant business.

The White House said the session touched on preparing the US workforce to compete in the global economy and the need to boost private sector hiring, as well as ideas to enhance entrepreneurship and reforming education.

It said Obama asked his guests to keep the lines of dialogue open.

Promoting growth and lowering crippling joblessness may hold the key to Obama’s hopes of winning a second term in 2012.

On Tuesday, Obama also mined corporate expertise as he discussed the economy and philanthropy in the Oval Office with America’s two richest men, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire financier Warren Buffett.

And on Friday, at a time when he is facing a backlash with his left-wing base over tax compromises he wrought with rival Republicans, Obama will follow up the CEO talks by meeting labor leaders to talk economics.

White House officials dispute a media narrative that Obama disdains corporate America, which took hold as the president lambasted Wall Street excess as he passed a financial regulatory reform bill earlier this year.

But Republicans mocked Obama’s session as unlikely to do anything to spur growth and speed up the recovery, saying instead that his policies were stifling the true motor of growth — small business.

They produced a list of reasons why they said Obama’s past efforts to engaged business leaders had “proven fruitless” — slamming his “job killing” health care law and “spending binge” in Washington.

“The White House’s ‘olive branches’ to the business community are more like twigs, really,” said a statement from the office of John Boehner, the presumptive Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

This news, Obama seeks new tone with big business
(AFP)
quoted from US Economy

Short URL: http://www.usnews9.com/?p=4309

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