Washington (CNN)– President Obama recognized the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa as well as natural disasters in Japan in the opening of his weekly address Saturday, but the economy and his trip to Latin America quickly became the focus of his message.
"As we respond to these immediate crises abroad, we will also not let up in our efforts to tackle the pressing, ongoing challenges facing our country," he said.
Obama will visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador on the trip designed "to strengthen economic partnerships abroad so that we create good jobs at home."
Obama described Latin America as a "part of the world where the economy is growing very quickly."
Citing increased demand for goods and services from this region, he said that he wants to make sure the products that will be in demand are made in America.
"I want to open more markets around the world so that American companies can do more business and hire more of our people," he said.
The president quoted statistics to support his plan, saying that every $1 billion of goods and services that are exported from the United States support more than 5,000 jobs within the nation. And his goal to "double our exports by 2014" is based on the idea that "the more we sell overseas, the more jobs we create on our shores."
He highlighted the result of existing partnerships by asserting that America now exports more than three times as much to Latin America than to China, and that exports to Latin America will soon support more than 2 million jobs.
Obama described Brazil as a country that imports more goods from the U.S. than from any other nation; Chile as "a country with a growing economy, and increasing demand for American goods;" and El Salvador as a nation with promise for growth. Citing a "special bond with our neighbors to the south," that is "strengthened by the millions of Americans who proudly trace their roots to Latin America."
"In an increasingly global economy, our partnership with these nations is only going to become more vital," the president said. "It's a source of grown and prosperity - and not just for the people of Latin America, but for the American people as well."
The Republican weekly address also centered on the economy and job creation, but through a different lens. Freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler from Washington opened the address by describing her position as "a tale of two Washingtons."
She compared the "hard-working communities of southwest Washington state" with the "powers-that-be" in Washington, D.C.
Criticizing leaders for enlisting an "army of lobbyists" to block efforts made to address the nation's debt, Beutler also charged those in power with "throwing a wrench into the gears of job creation."
But she asserted that the new Republican majority is "hard at work on eliminating regulatory barriers to job creation" and listed actions including the House vote to repeal the 1099 mandate of health care reform law, and an upcoming vote that will "stop the EPA's backdoor national energy tax that would drive up gas prices.
The congresswoman representing Washington's 3rd district said that the GOP is working to send a signal that "Washington is going to stop using our small businesses as piggy banks and focus on helping them get back to creating jobs."
Linking job creation with spending cuts, Beutler urged the need to cut spending beyond $10 billion. She also slammed Senate Democrats and the president by charging Obama with staying on the sidelines while calling for the chamber to "step up and follow us in passing a bill so we can prevent a government shutdown and support job growth by reducing spending."
"If we want to get our economy back to creating jobs, we can't duck our responsibility to rein in spending."