The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Opening and Closing Remarks by the President to the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

State Dining Room

11:13 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please, have a seat, everybody.  For those of you who I have not seen since before the break, Happy New Year. 

I am extraordinarily grateful for all the work that you have done.  I want to start off by thanking Jeff for his continued outstanding leadership of this Jobs Council.  I think that the plan is for me to maybe just open up with a few remarks and then we’ve got a whole bunch of presentations, so I don’t want to take too much time.  Is that all right with you, Mr. Chairman?

MR. IMMELT:  That’s great.

THE PRESIDENT:  One of the things that’s been striking about this Jobs Council is how focused and how hard-working everybody has been around this table.  This has not been a show council.  This has been a work council.  And because of the extraordinary commitments that each and every one of you have made, we have generated I think as good a set of proposals as we have seen coming out of the private sector to help to guide and steer our economic agenda and our approach to jobs and growth over the next couple of years.

In each of the earlier meetings, we discussed the key role that we all play in accelerating growth and improving America’s competitiveness, and that the economic recovery has to be driven by the private sector.  We have moved aggressively to implement your recommendations.  As I think you’ve heard, of your 35 executive action recommendations, we’ve taken action on 33 of them; we’ve completed the implementation of 16 of them.  And I’ll highlight a couple of examples.

Building on some of the Job Council’s National Investment Initiative recommendations, last week the Vice President and I hosted a forum on the increasing trend of insourcing -- companies choosing to invest in the United States.  And Intel and DuPont participated, along with several dozen other companies.  We discussed tangible ways that we can encourage domestic investment, and I announced a number of new initiatives and new tax proposals to provide further incentives for companies to increase investment in the United States, including expanding on SelectUSA, one of the recommendations in your last report.  And we actually had a company there that had benefitted from the services of SelectUSA, and it confirmed the power and capacity of one-stop shops and a coordinated approach from the federal government for somebody who is interested in investment here in the United States.

I’ve personally emphasized to the White House team and to the Cabinet the importance of aggressively implementing the recommendations of this Job Council.  I have been tracking implementation of your recommendations.  And we’ve seen substantial progress across the board.

Let me highlight a couple other areas where your ideas and focus have had significant impact.  First, on permitting:  This is something that I know that Matt and others really emphasized.  As we all agreed, we needed to make a big investment in this country in infrastructure to assure our competitiveness.  We also agreed that we can’t be bogged down by red tape and bureaucracy if we’re actually going to get every bang for the buck.  Building on administration efforts to streamline permitting, I issued an executive order to expedite review of job-creating infrastructure projects, and to track their progress on a new public dashboard.  All 14 projects are on track.  Most importantly, we’re using these projects to learn lessons that we can scale across a whole range of projects throughout the federal government moving forward.  And I want you to know that, as a result of your input, we’re going to establish a permitting project manager effort overseen by OMB, to establish performance metrics, track progress against goals, and adapt best practices across agencies.  So, you see, Mark can cross this off -- check this off his list.  (Laughter.)  I know he was coming here -- he was going to make sure that happened; it’s happening.

A second example:  On regulatory review -- and we’re going to have an opportunity for Jeff and Cass to expand on what we’ve been doing in this area -- but I tasked federal agencies to cut inefficient or excessively burdensome regulations, and issued an executive order to independent agencies to look back at their regulations for inefficiencies and excessive burdens.  Currently, we’re estimating savings of $10 billion over 10 years by implementing just a fraction of the reforms that have already been proposed and identified.  Cass is going to provide you with a fuller update in a moment, but the preliminary results are exciting -- and this includes, by the way, the independent agencies.  So, for example, the FCC, prompted by our request but also due to some excellent work by Julius Genachowski, they’ve already eliminated 190 rules -- 190.  And that gives you some sense of the scale of the work that can be done as a consequence of some of your recommendations.

I announced last Friday that I’m going to ask Congress to give me authority to reorganize the government, to make it work better for the American people while eliminating duplication and waste and inefficiencies.  Much of this was embodied in some of the recommendations that you had in particular areas. 

My legislative proposal would create a consolidation authority that would for the first time require that any reorganization proposal reduce the size of government and cut costs.  So this is not just a matter of moving boxes around.  The question is, can you actually achieve better integration, better streamlining, better efficiency, and ultimately better consumer service and better payoff for taxpayers.

The first proposal we identified was to consolidate the six agencies focusing primarily on business and trade into a new department with a single mission:  to spur job create and expand the U.S. economy. 

And this new department would consolidate the core business and trade functions of six agencies.  It would be focused solely on helping entrepreneurs and businesses of all size to grow and to compete and to hire, while also cutting costs and provide better customer service.

So I make these points just to say that not only have you guys exceeded all expectations in providing specific, thoughtful recommendations.  Hopefully, we’ve at least met your expectations in follow-through and implementation; what we haven’t seen is a bunch of white paper sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.  We have tried to take very seriously everything that you proposed, and to try to integrate it into not only legislative proposals but also the executive proposals out there.

So I read your first-year report.  I was pleased to see that there’s consistency and shared urgency about America playing to win.  Education, innovation, streamlining regulations, energy, manufacturing -- all these are critical issues, and they’re all interwoven and they impact each other.

I recognize a lot of these issues are difficult.  They’ve proven challenging for decades.  The good news is on each of these fronts we’ve made progress this year.  I feel confident in being able to say that every one of the agencies in this government has been focused on how do they improve, get smarter, get better, get faster, become more focused on delivering good value to the end user.  And I believe that we’ve made genuine progress on all these fronts.  We would not have made this progress without this Jobs Council.  And I think it will pay off in terms of solidifying this recovery and allowing us to move forward in a way where it actually translates into jobs, which has obviously been our principal and primary focus:  making sure that we’re creating a fair shot for every American who wants to work hard and get out there and succeed in this economy.

So with that, Jeff, I just want to say thank you for being able to provide such outstanding leadership for this effort.  And with that, I’m looking forward to hearing all the good work that’s already been done.

MR. IMMELT:  Thanks, Mr. President. 

* * * * *

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I just, again, want to thank all of you for the seriousness and effort that you’ve put into this Jobs Council.  We’re going to continue to gather recommendations from you and are going to continue to try to implement them as quickly as we can.

Those where we think there’s an issue, we’ll get back to you, and there will be an iterative process where we’ll be in discussions in terms of how we can achieve some of the goals that have been set. 

I want you to know that obviously this year is an election year, and so getting Congress focused on some of these issues may be difficult.  But we have been struck by the degree of capacity we have administratively to at least chip away at some of these problems.  Oftentimes, it’s hard to get the kind of comprehensive solutions that you want without legislative involvement.  But those small, incremental steps, they add up, and we’re going to continue to make sure that we push that as hard as possible.

I did notice that we didn’t have time to talk about manufacturing, although Jeff, I know that you and Rich Trumka and others have spent a good deal of time on it.  In some ways that’s all right because essentially that whole insourcing conversation was really a manufacturing conversation.  And I was incredibly impressed with the potential at least for us to start getting manufacturing back in the United States in selective industries -- understanding that if you’ve got -- if you’ve got products that involve high volume, lots of labor, unskilled labor, that it’s going to be difficult to move those back.

On the other hand, where you have skilled labor, our competitive advantages are accelerating.  And we’re going to really be pushing hard on that front along with issues like basic research, et cetera, partly because my understanding -- and John and others, I think you guys helped -- Steve Jobs and others -- helped educate me on the fact that if all our manufacturing facilities move offshore that it’s actually hard over time to keep our R&D here because so much of this ends up being a matter of seeing how something works in an applied fashion and tinkering with it and going back at it.

MR. IMMELT:  We’ve set a goal here, Mr. President, to try to get back four points of global market share and value added in manufacturing.  We think we can do that.  People like Paul and I that travel the world, I think we see the U.S. more competitive today than we have in the last 20 or 25 years, so that’s -- I think that’s another great initiative here.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a good news story.  It merges directly with our export initiative and the great work that people like Fred and Ron and others are doing.  So we’re going to keep on pushing that.  You’ll see that is a significant focus in our State of the Union as well.

So thank you, everybody.  Great work.  Appreciate it.

MR. IMMELT:  Thanks, Mr. President.  (Applause.)

END
12:35 P.M. EST

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