WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called on U.S. businesses on Saturday to do more to boost the economy by hiring more workers and making investments.
The government has an obligation to make the United States the best place to do business, by providing the best schools, incentives to innovate and the best infrastructure, he said, but added that businesses also have to do their part.
“If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should make their mark in America,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “They should set up shop here, and hire our workers, and pay decent wages and invest in the future of this nation. That’s their obligation.”
Obama had difficult relations with the U.S. corporate community during much of his first two years as president, as some businesses -- and the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbying group -- balked at his initiatives to revamp Wall Street regulation and overhaul the healthcare industry and took umbrage at some of his sharp rhetoric on executive pay.
But the White House sought to mend relations of late, by toning down the presidential rhetoric and making staffing choices that appeal to the corporate community, such as making Bill Daley, formerly of JPMorgan Chase, the new White House chief of staff.
Obama heads into the lion’s den on Monday by making his first address to the members of the Chamber.
In the weekly address, Obama said he would tell the Chamber that government and business have mutual responsibilities.
“If we fulfill these obligations together, it benefits us all. Our workers will succeed. Our nation will prosper,” he said.
With the economy the central concern of U.S. voters, the White House has been promoting its push to support businesses, and generate more jobs, despite having its attention distracted by the crisis in Egypt.
Obama has been traveling around the country to tout initiatives including a program to increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and another to expand access to high-speed wireless.
“All we did for these companies was provide some tax credits and financing opportunities. And that’s what we want to do going forward,” Obama said.
His address aired the day after the Labor Department said U.S. employment rose by only 36,000 jobs in January, far fewer than economists had expected. But the jobless rate plummeted to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent in December.
“This week, we received a report on jobs and unemployment that told us we’re continuing to move in the right direction,” Obama said. “But we need to get there faster.”
Editing by Eric Beech