US resurgence is real, we are better off: Obama

Washington: US President Barack Obama said that the US economy is looking up and underlined America's leadership role around the world, in his year-end conference here Friday.

"As a country, we have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished -- more jobs, more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy -- pick any metric that you want; America's resurgence is real. We are better off," Obama said, according to a CNN report.

The US president called 2014 the "strongest year for job growth since the 1990s" and pointed towards rising middle class wages, increased energy production and lower gas prices.

Obama said that a 57-month streak of job growth produced 11 million new positions.

He pointed out that gas prices were 70 cents lower this year than they were during last Christmas, and that the administration's bailout of the automotive industry was "effectively over".

"Yes, there were crises that we (have) had to tackle around the world -- many that were unanticipated," Obama said.

"We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system and our government work not just for the few, but the many. (However) there is no doubt (that) we can enter the new year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts," the US president said.

He also noted that tax reform was "one area where we can get things done".

Obama reiterated that the US was leading the coalition in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and against "Russian aggression in Ukraine".

He also referred to the global fight against Ebola, and the role of the US in leading that fight and ensuring that an outbreak of the disease in US was prevented.

On America's relations with Cuba, President Obama said that he wants to see the US embargo against Cuba abolished, but that he doesn't expect that to happen right away as "Congress digests" his move to thaw the two countries' economic freeze.

He shared the concerns of dissidents and human rights groups about Cuba's "hermetically sealed society," but said his move to ease economic restrictions will lead to a long-term change there -- even if it happens in "fits and starts."

On Wednesday, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a historic agreement to normalise bilateral relations after 53 years of hostility.

On the Sony hacking case, Obama said that Sony "made a mistake" in halting the release of its film "The Interview" after hackers, that the FBI has linked to North Korea, stole the company's documents and threatened theatres that showed the film.

"We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the US," Obama said.

On the conditions of African-Americans in the US, Obama said that they were better off now, but conceded that their income gap with the whites still persists and vowed to work to address that.

The US president also said that the Keystone XL pipeline -- which Republican congressional leaders have said they intend to approve legislation to authorise early next year -- is "not even going to be a nominal benefit to US consumers," though he didn't threaten to veto a bill that would take approval of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline out of the state department's hands.

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