WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush met for lunch with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) Tuesday as part of a regular series of meetings meant to show the president is in tune with the economy.
The lunch comes one day after the president acknowledged and launched a series of steps aimed at countering the disappearance of American manufacturing jobs.
One of the steps was taken Tuesday with the arrival in Beijing of Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose mission is to convince the Chinese government to boost the value of its currency against the U.S. dollar.
U.S. manufacturers say the current exchange rate of one dollar to every 8.25 yuan is eliminating jobs at home.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that Snow is making progress and added the Chinese have "indicated they intend to move towards greater flexibility."
Elsewhere, however, the Chinese have said they intend to keep their currency rates stable. China's main English-language newspaper wrote Tuesday that China's government said it would be "undesirable" for anyone to get "the impression that international browbeating can effectively mandate China's foreign exchange policy."
The brush-off didn't faze McClellan.
"It is our view that currency values are best set in open and competitive markets. And so Secretary Snow is in China now, he will be discussing those issues with the Chinese and that's an important step forward," McClellan said.
McClellan did take note of the latest report by the widely-respected Institute for Supply Management, which reported that manufacturing activity rose sharply in August, more than expected, and reached its highest level since December.
But the number of manufacturing jobs still shrank, the report found, and overall, the country has lost more than 2.5 million jobs since 2001.
On Tuesday, the president conceded the loss of thousands of jobs, and tacitly acknowledged that the sluggish economic recovery, specifically the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, could pose a threat to his re-election.
Bush told a Labor Day crowd of 1,900 union workers in Ohio Monday that he understands "that there is a problem with the manufacturing sector."
He said that for a full economic recovery, "manufacturing must do better."
Bush announced that he has created a new post, an assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing, and signaled he may take a harder line with overseas competitors like China.
"One way to make sure that we, the manufacturing sector, does well is to send a message overseas — say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade. See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair," Bush said.
When asked on Tuesday what the new assistant secretary will do, McClellan replied: "This person's focus will be specifically on the manufacturing sector."
The president also was meeting Tuesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Sure to rank high on their agenda is the ongoing dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a dispute in which the United States' most crucial ally has been and remains China.
Bush also participated in an Oval Office ceremony in which he was presented with the first game football of the 2003 National Football League season. On hand were NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (search), Redskins owner Dan Snyder (search) and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson.
On Thursday, the NFL is hosting a huge kick-off concert on the National Mall that is expected to draw 70,000 people with the likes of Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and Britney Spears.
Fox News' James Rosen contributed to this report.