President Barack Obama delivers his 2011 State of the Union address in Washington, DC

President Barack Obama delivers his 2011 State of the Union address in Washington, DC

President Barack Obama has used his annual State of the Union Address to repeat his goal of boosting the US economy by doubling the country's exports by 2014 and creating new jobs - including plans to complete the long-awaited free trade agreement with South Korea.

"The more we export, the more jobs we create at home," he said.

"Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs in the United States. And last month, we finalised a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs.

"This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labour; Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible."

Currently, US exports to Korea face an average applied tariff of 11.2%, while the equivalent US tariff on Korean exports is 3.7%. The US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) will level the playing field, as nearly 95% of all goods traded between the two countries will become duty-free within three years.

The President also pledged to enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs.  That's what we did with Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.

As for two other long-pending free trade deals - with Colombia and Panama - he added: "Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs.

"That's what we did with Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.

But Obama also warned the US would not hesitate "to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people."

The moves to enhance the US' ability to compete in the global marketplace were applauded by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).

"US apparel and footwear industry workers and hard working American families stand to benefit from these meaningful market opening agreements, not just with the Korea agreement, but also with the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama," said the trade group's president and CEO Kevin Burke.