HONOLULU - President Obama said that the United States has gotten a "little bit lazy" when it comes to bringing in new businesses in to the states. He made the comments at a CEO summit as part of the APEC conference Saturday, when asked by Boeing CEO James McNerney about looking at the world from a Chinese perspective and what they might consider as impediments to investing.
Obama said it's important to remember that the U.S. is still the largest receiver of foreign investment in the world and things like stability, openness and innovative free market culture are attractive. He also said there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity - like stability, openness, our innovative free market culture.
"But we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America, Obama said.
He then went on to say things his administration has done like setting up Select USA that organizes government agencies in an attempt to make it easier for foreign investors to set up a plant in the U.S.
"Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they've got to navigate not only federal rules, but they've also got to navigate state and local governments that may have their own sets of interests. Being able to create if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that's something that we want to encourage," Obama said.
Later at a press conference, Google CEO Steve Schmidt was asked about the remarks. Schmidt said it is hard to answer without knowing what the standard of laziness is. He did say thought that America could be more aggressive. "I think the government and the nation should always be focusing more on the fastest-growing parts of the world. So I'm not sure that's a new discovery," Schmidt.
However he noted he probably wouldn't have used the word lazy.
The president's remarks in some ways echo what he has set earlier about America's positioning on the global stage.
In response to a question in an interview with Florida television station WESH in late September, Obama said, "The way I think about it is this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn't have that same competitive edge we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track. But I still wouldn't trade our position with any country's on Earth. We still have the best universities and scientists and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world. We need to bring all those things together"
He also said at a fundraiser in San Francsico last month, "Anybody been to Beijing Airport lately? Or driven on high-speed rail in Asia or Europe? What's changed? Well, we've lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country."