February 2, 2006

Bush tells Americans no need to fear global competition

By Tabassum Zakaria

MAPLEWOOD, Minnesota (Reuters) - President George W. Bush
on Thursday said Americans should not fear global competition
from rising economic powers like China and India, and called on
Congress to allow more foreign workers to fill high-tech jobs
in the United States.

In a trip to the Midwest Bush expanded on the election-year
theme set in his State of the Union address that America must
maintain its competitive edge in a global economy. He has
proposed a program to support research and development in new
technologies, and improve science and math education.

To fill vacant high-tech jobs in the United States, Bush
called on Congress to lift the current limit on H-1B visas that
allow foreign workers to get jobs in the United States.

"The problem is, is that Congress has limited the number of
H-1B visas," Bush said in a speech at 3M, which makes products
such as office supplies Scotch tape and Post-it notes.

"I think it's a mistake not to encourage more really bright
folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being
filled in America, to limit their number," Bush said. "So I
call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable to raise that

Congress in 2005 capped at 65,000 the number of H-1B visas,
which allow companies to hire foreign workers for high-tech
jobs -- a third of the 195,000 allowed during the technology
boom. Bush did not say by how much he wanted the limit lifted.


Bush said Americans should not fear competition because as
wealth spreads overseas, there will be growth in demand for
U.S. products. At the same time he acknowledged that there was
some feeling of "uncertainty" as they see jobs moving abroad.

"It's important for us not to lose our confidence in
changing times; it's important for us not to fear competition,
but welcome it," Bush said.

Bush is proposing a $5.9 billion "American Competitiveness
Initiative" that includes $1.3 billion in new federal funding
and an additional $4.6 billion in research and development tax
incentives. The program aims to support science research and
improve math and science education.

He also touched upon other themes from his State of the
Union address to Congress on Tuesday, including the need to
reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to say to the American
people when this research (on alternative fuels) is complete,
that the United States is on our way to no dependence on oil
from the from the Middle East."

Bush is hoping his election-year agenda will help provide a
route for Republican victory in the November congressional and
Senate races where the control of Congress is at stake.

Bush made his speech on Thursday in Minnesota where
Republicans have targeted the Senate race for the seat of
incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton who is retiring.

Republicans have recruited Rep. Mark Kennedy for the race.
Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County Attorney, is
favored to win the primary in September and take on Kennedy.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan)