Obama touts delayed trade agreements in Tampa
Surrounded by shipping containers at the Port of Tampa, President Barack Obama on Friday touted his efforts to expand trade opportinities and rev up the American economy.
The quick stop in the biggest battleground region of America's biggest battleground state came as the president was heading toward Cartagena, Colombia, for the summit of western hemisphere leaders. It was an official White House visit, but had the feel of a campaign rally.
"While I'm in Colombia talking with other leaders, I'm going to be thinking about you," Obama, his shirt sleeves rolled up, told at least 200 people gathered at the port's container terminal. "I want us selling stuff, and I want us putting more Americans back to work."
He touted trade agreements with Columbia, South Korea, and Panama he signed into law to promote exports, saying the country is on track to meet his goal of doubling exports by 2015.
"Already our exports to the Western Hemisphere are up by 46 percent since 2009," he said. That’s obviously important to Tampa. Tampa is one of the biggest ports in the country and a lot of the business being done here has to do with trade between us and Latin America. So the fact that it has gone up 46 percent since 2009 is a big deal for Tampa. In Florida, exports to this region are up nearly 30 percent."
Republicans wasted no time noting that those trade agreements had been stalled for years due to opposition from Democrats, citing labor and human rights concerns about Columbia.
“President Obama’s recent decision to focus on trade – a vital component of Florida’s economy – comes three years too late," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement released by the Mitt Romney campaign. "President Obama missed several opportunities early in his administration to secure quick passage of trade agreements with Colombia and Panama which together will create thousands of jobs here in Florida.