WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants to reward companies that invest in America and eliminate tax breaks for companies that don't, and he's planning new tax proposals to do it.
A day after his Republican foes competed in the New Hampshire primary, Obama sought to grab back the spotlight and underscore his focus on the economy by convening a White House forum on how to increase employment and bring back jobs that have fled overseas.
Speaking alongside a group of business executives in the East Room, Obama said that rising American productivity and increasingly competitive costs add up to "a unique moment, an inflection point" for businesses to invest in the U.S. and bring jobs back home. And he argued there's a moral case for it, too, and that business leaders have a responsibility to their country.
"So my message to business leaders today is simple: ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to the country that made our success possible — and I'm going to do everything in my power to help you do it. We're going to have to seize this moment," Obama said.
"This moment is perfectly suited for our advantages, it's perfectly suited for who we are," he said. "The global marketplace is becoming more innovative, more creative, more transparent, faster, more adaptable — that's who we are, that's our strength. We've got to take advantage of it."
The White House gave the session a high profile in the wake of Mitt Romney's victory in New Hampshire, which solidified his lead over the GOP presidential field. Romney has targeted Obama as a foe of free enterprise. Obama's forum aimed in part to counter that message.
Obama highlighted big and small firms ranging from Ford to a North Carolina specialty furniture company as examples of enterprises that have invested in the U.S. rather than abroad. He called on other companies to do the same with the help of government incentives.
The White House says the president will propose $12 million in his 2013 budget to promote business investment from overseas in the United States. Obama said he'd propose tax changes in the next few weeks but he didn't provide details.