WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- President Obama called on Congress Tuesday to reform the tax code to benefit companies that chose to stay in the United States and hire domestically.
"Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas," Obama said. "Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So let's change that."
Early on in his speech, he said the country has a "huge opportunity" to bring manufacturing back to the fore and called for changes in the tax code.
"But we have to seize it," Obama said. "Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed."
Businesses wanting to outsource jobs shouldn't get tax deductions, he said.
"That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like MasterLock that decide to bring jobs home," he said.
No U.S. company should be able to pay its "fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas," he said. "From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here."
He called for a bigger tax cut for American manufacturers.
"If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here," he said. "And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers."
He said his message concerning the business tax code was simple:
"It's time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away."
He said his goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years was on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule, thanks to the bipartisan trade agreements he signed into law.
"Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia and South Korea," he said. "Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit and Toledo and Chicago."
While saying he would "go anywhere" to open new markets for U.S. products, "I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules."
He said his administration was creating a trade enforcement unit that will be tasked with investigating unfair trade practices in countries such as China.
"There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders," he said. "And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you America will always win."
To address concerns voiced by business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can't find workers with the right skill set, Obama urged Congress to give community colleges the resources they need to become "community career centers -- places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."
He also said he wants to "cut through the maze of confusing training programs" so job-seekers have one place to go for all the information and help they need.
"It's time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work," he said.
An economy that is "built to last" is one that encourages the talent and ingenuity of everyone, Obama said.
"That means women should earn equal pay for equal work," he said. "It means we should support everyone who's willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs," the late co-founder of Apple.
Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses, he said.
"So let's pass an agenda that helps them succeed," the president said. "Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year."