WASHINGTON (AP) — Pointing to a rebound in manufacturing, President Barack Obama in Wednesday is visiting a plant that has brought back jobs to the United States. But he shares the day's spotlight with the visiting vice president of China, which has seen many more jobs migrate from the U.S.
Before going on an extended West Coast fundraising spree, Obama was visiting a padlock manufacturer that was cited in his State of the Union address last month for bringing back 100 jobs to the U.S. from China in response to higher labor and logistical costs in Asia.
Obama has repeatedly talked up the nation's manufacturing base as an engine of growth and a sign of a recovering economy. He has urged companies to promote "insourcing," promising new tax incentives for businesses that bring jobs to the U.S. instead of shipping them overseas and eliminating tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs.
The U.S. manufacturing sector was hard-hit for more than a decade. Manufacturers shed 5.8 million jobs from 1999 to 2009 as many companies shifted jobs overseas to take advantage of lower costs and many plants were modernized and automated, allowing firms to do more with fewer workers.
But the sector has shown more vitality in recent months, bolstering Obama's case. Manufacturers added 50,000 jobs in January, the most in a year, and added 237,000 jobs in 2011, the largest annual boost since 1997. Of the 3.2 million jobs added by the economy since February 2010, about 400,000 are in manufacturing.
Obama's visit to Wisconsin has its political side as the president prepares for a Republican challenge in the November election. He carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 but is expected to face a more difficult challenge this year after Republicans captured nearly every statewide office two years ago. The weak economy is the top election issue this year.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, neighboring Iowa will see a visit from Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who briefly visited the state years ago on an agricultural study mission.
Most of Obama's trip will be devoted to fundraising. The president is holding eight fundraisers for his re-election campaign in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco and Seattle.