Obama turns focus to trade concerns

WASHINGTON — President Obama's export advisory group, headed by Boeing CEO James McNerney and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, released a report Thursday recommending the government step up trade promotion and complete work on free trade agreements.

Less than two months before congressional elections, with the economy a top issue for voters, Obama is turning his attention to trade, highlighting his goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years as a driver of economic growth.

"Exports are actually leading our economic recovery," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said this week. "The more that America's companies export, the more they produce. The more they produce, the more they hire, and that means more jobs."

Obama formed the Export Council in March, laying out a goal of doubling U.S. exports during the next five years to about $3.1 trillion by 2015, supporting 2 million additional jobs. As part of his trade agenda Obama also is working to revive stalled free-trade talks with South Korea and reach a deal during his November visit to Seoul.

"We're focused on creating jobs. This is all hands on deck," Locke said.

The report recommends the government increase the number of trade missions and step up promotion abroad, increase financing for the purchase of U.S. exports and finish work on pending free trade accords with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The advisory group didn't address the value of China's currency, which labor unions and some lawmakers argue is a barrier to U.S. exports and job growth.

Congressional hearings on China's foreign exchange policy continue for a second day with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Banking Committee.

The yuan, which had been pegged to the dollar before China announced a shift in policy earlier this year, surged on Wednesday to its highest level since 1993.