On his way to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama told port workers in Tampa, Florida, his meetings with Latin American leaders will help promote U.S. trade.
Obama started his trip Friday with a tour of the busy Port of Tampa, where he told workers the United States is likely to meet his goal of doubling its exports by the end of 2014.
"Today, with the trade agreements that I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal. Soon there are going to be millions of new customers for American goods in South Korea, in Colombia, in Panama."
U.S. business leaders will be watching to see whether the president announces that Colombia has met the labor rights conditions in the free trade agreement Congress passed and Obama signed last year.
Friday's trip to Florida was the second for the president this week. Florida is the fourth most-populous U.S. state, and the largest of the so-called "swing states," where this year’s presidential election is likely to be decided. With the state of the economy a big issue in the campaign, Obama said his work at the summit in Cartagena will help American goods reach growing markets to the south.
"In Latin America alone, over the past decade, tens of millions of people have stepped out of poverty and into the middle class. So they are now in a position to start buying American products," said Obama.
The president also talked about a program to help America’s small businesses get financing and connect with foreign buyers.
"So this initiative is going to help our small businesses-Latino-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, African American-owned businesses. We want every business to be able to access these new markets, start exporting to these countries," said Obama.
U.S. Hispanics also are expected to be closely watching the president’s visit to Colombia. Latinos are one of the country's largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups, and Hispanic voters have strongly supported Obama.