Have to fix our immigration system this year: Obama

No better place to do business than in the US, says President at SelectUSA summit.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: President Barack Obama attended the first ever SelectUSA Investment Summit on Thursday, taking the opportunity to urge foreign companies to bring their businesses stateside.

President Barack Obama speaking at the first annual SelectUSA Investment Summit.

“America is open for business,” was the president’s slogan during his 15 minute address to the crowd of hundreds that had gathered for the summit at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, in which he also briefly addressed how the US has “cleared the rubble” of the financial meltdown and is coming back to where it was economically before 2008. Obama also vowed to expand SelectUSA in order to bring in more commerce.

“I’m here because I want companies around the world to know that I believe there is no better place in the world to do business than the United States of America,” he said. “We’re not just the world’s largest market, we’re [also] growing […] After a decade in which many jobs left the United States to move overseas, now we’re seeing companies start to bring jobs back because they see the advantages of being located here.”

Obama attempted to assuage any fears that foreign CEOs may have about doing business in America due to the partisanship and relative instability of the government.

“Making America more attractive to foreign investments is something everybody – Democrats and Republicans – can agree on. We’ve got to work together to get that done,” Obama implored. “[But] at a macro level, that means getting out of gridlock and these manufactured crises you’ve seen in Washington. I assume that if you ask any CEO in here if shutting down the government makes them feel more confident about wanting to bring jobs to America, the answer will probably be ‘no.’”

The president also addressed comprehensive immigration reform, saying “We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system. The good news is that we know we have bipartisan support for immigration reform, we just have to make sure we get it done this year.”

That, however, is a goal that seems increasingly optimistic with each passing day due to the delays caused by the government shutdown and, most recently, the Obamacare fiasco.

Obama was not the only one to address comprehensive immigration reform at the summit. During a panel discussion in the morning, moderator Valerie Jarrett – the White House’s Senior Advisor to the President – asked participants Larry Fink (CEO of Blackrock, Inc.) and Andrew Liveris (Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical) about their feelings towards the passing of the Gang of Eight bill.

“If the US passes comprehensive immigration reform, it will be a shame on the rest of the world,” said Fink, saying that it will lead to an influx of talent to the United States that will put the country head and shoulders above other nations. “It will prove dramatic [for] the future growth rates of the [US],” he continued, “[and] will be a standard that will set us apart from other nations and will drive commerce to the US.”

Liveris echoed Fink’s sentiments, saying “I can think of no more pressing issue for the US than immigration reform,” adding that “youth unemployment is a chronic issue in most countries, [and] our education and immigration systems need to step up.”

SelectUSA was created in 2011 by an executive order signed by President Obama, with the purpose of promoting the US as a Mecca for global business, so that the US economy can grow and its unemployment rate can drop.

The Investment Summit is the first of its kind ever held by SelectUSA, and will continue tomorrow. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to give a speech in the morning, and other dignitaries who were present today, such as Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, are also expected to attend.

[Photo by Deepak Chitnis.]

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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