Obama weighs lobby group speech to court business

WASHINGTON Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:04pm EST

President Barack Obama listens to journalists' questions during a news conference at the NATO Summit in Lisbon November 20, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

President Barack Obama listens to journalists' questions during a news conference at the NATO Summit in Lisbon November 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hanna

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is considering giving a speech in January to the Chamber of Commerce, a major business lobby, as part of a new outreach to corporations, a White House official said on Saturday.

The White House and the chamber have tussled repeatedly during the first two years of Obama's administration over policies that the group has portrayed as unfriendly to business.

After the November 2 congressional elections, which handed Republicans control of the House of Representatives and shrank Democrats' majority in the Senate, Obama said he had to do a better job of making sure the business community knew it has a supporter in the White House.

The White House official said Obama, a Democrat, had been invited to speak to the chamber on December 2, but that event had been canceled.

"The chamber has also invited the president to speak in January and we are considering the invitation to see if it will work in the schedule," the official said.

An Obama speech to the lobby group would be a high-profile way of trying to mend relations tested by disagreements over policies such as Obama's failed attempt to enact a "cap and trade" system to limit industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

The organization said it would welcome an Obama visit.

"The chamber doesn't have anything currently planned but we'd always be happy to host the president to talk about jobs and the economy," said Tom Collamore, the group's senior vice president of communications and strategy, through a spokesman.

Stung by the election and public perception that Obama had not done enough to fight high joblessness, administration officials have signaled the White House plans to focus its message largely on efforts to improve the economy.

"Economic recovery is the most important goal for the president and working with all of the stakeholders, including the Chamber of Commerce, on export promotion, free and fair trade to grow the economy and create jobs is an important part of achieving that goal," a White House spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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