San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Obama says job creation is the priority on Latin America tour

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama said Friday that the priority on his current Latin American tour is job creation and the strengthening of economic ties with a region whose economy is growing and is a “partner in progress.”

The president left Friday night for Brazil, the first stop on a tour of three countries in five days, which will also include Chile and El Salvador. This is his first trip to Central and South America since taking office 26 months ago.

One reason for the trip is “to strengthen our economic relationship with neighbors who are playing a growing role in our economic future,” Obama said in an op-ed published Friday in USA Today.

“Our neighbors in the Americas are bound to us by shared history, values and interests. What I will convey this week is that we are partners in progress,” the president said. “Strengthening these partnerships will advance the common prosperity and common security of all our people, creating new jobs and new growth across the hemisphere.”

The president said that the economy of the region, with its close to 600 million inhabitants, grew by approximately 6 percent last year and the pace of expansion is expected to accelerate.

“And as these markets are growing, so is their demand for goods and services – goods and services that, as president, I want to see made in the United States of America,” Obama said.

He said that every $1 billion in exports provide more than 5,000 jobs in the United States, so that the government’s goal is to double exports of goods and services by 2014.

In the op-ed Obama does not mention, however, the trade treaties with Colombia and Panama that are pending ratification in Congress and are opposed by labor unions, one of the Democratic Party’s key constituencies going into the 2012 presidential race.

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