* Obama says working on South Korea trade pact
* Repeats vow to double U.S. exports in five years
* Boeing's McNerney says U.S. need the trade pacts
By Alister Bull and Patricia Zengerle
(Updates with comments by Locke, McNerney))
WASHINGTON, Sept 16 President Barack Obama said
on Thursday he wants to advance free trade agreements with U.S.
partners, including important ally South Korea, and repeated a
vow to double America's exports over the next five years.
"We hope to move forward on new trade agreements with some
of our key partners in a way that doesn't just advance the
interests of our businesses, workers and farmers, but also
upholds our most cherished values," Obama said at the White
House, marking the release of a national report on exports.
The president is seeking to augment weak domestic demand by
boosting sales abroad as he fights unemployment near 10 percent
and flagging economic growth. But he also wants trade pacts to
include standards protecting worker rights and the
Top White House adviser Larry Summers later said the United
States would have little chance of curbing unemployment if it
failed to approach Obama's goal on exports.
On Capitol Hill, a Senate Committee heard from Treasury
Secretary Timothy Geithner that the administration was taking a
tougher line on China's currency and trade policies that
critics complain are hurting U.S. job growth and corporate
U.S. economic uncertainty has alarmed voters, who could
take this anger out on Obama's Democrats in Nov. 2
congressional midterm elections.
But trade is a touchy topic for many Americans, who blame
the loss of well-paid U.S. jobs on overseas competition in
sectors like the battered U.S. auto industry, a particular
issue for the trade deal with South Korea.
"We're also working to resolve outstanding issues with our
free trade agreements with our key partners, like Korea, and to
seek congressional approval as soon as possible," Obama said.
He made no direct mention of concluding trade pacts with
Colombia and Panama.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke later reiterated that the
president supported moving forward on deals with these
countries, but stressed that more work was needed.
"There are some specific issues that have to be resolved in
each of the different agreements so far," Locke told reporters
at the White House. "Some of them are very technical, dealing
with taxation issues and so forth. But the president recognizes
that they can be the source of a lot of new jobs."
Obama wants to resolve concerns over a trade pact with
South Korea by November -- when he will visit the country to
attend a Group of 20 leaders summit -- so he can submit the
agreement to Congress by early next year.
U.S. lawmakers would have to turn quickly to the trade pact
after the November election, in which Republicans are predicted
to make gains against the Democrats, in order to be in time for
the G20 leaders summit on Nov. 11-12.
U.S. car-makers and auto workers complain the South Korean
trade pact fails to tear down a number of longtime nontariff
barriers that have so far limited U.S. auto exports to this
fast-growing and potentially lucrative market.
Jim McNerney, chairman and chief executive of Boeing Co
(BA.N) and head of Obama's export council, said U.S. companies
were desperate for the deals to go through.
"We are losing market share to European and Asian and even
South American countries. There are 600 free trade agreements
being worked on right now around the world and I think the U.S.
is focused on single digits," he told reporters at the White
House after the president spoke.
In spelling out how the United States could lift exports by
improving its own systems, Obama cited boosting the number of
U.S. trade missions abroad, removing trade barriers and
boosting the availability of trade finance as tangible steps.
"We think we can move rapidly on some of these fronts, and
we're pleased to see the fresh and innovative strategies we can
pursue to help small and medium sized companies sell their
goods and services abroad," he said.
(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer, Jeff Mason and Steve
Holland; Editing by Chris Wilson and Vicki Allen)