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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is casting himself as America's business pitchman.

Facing a sluggish economy, Obama on Thursday announced an expanded government role to draw foreign companies to the United States, arguing that the American workforce, cheaper energy costs and an improving economy make the U.S. an attractive home for investments.

"Officials at the highest levels, up to and including me, are going to do even more to make the case for investing in America," Obama told a summit of investors, business CEOs and state and local officials.

Obama said the goal is to make that outreach more efficient, making better use of the federal government to promote the U.S. overseas, a job that had previously been left primarily to states and cities, which had to compete against foreign countries to attract foreign investors.

Obama argued that the 3-year-old health care overhaul has slowed the growth of health costs, U.S. energy production has increased, and worker productivity is rising.

Increasing labor costs overseas, particularly in China, have also placed the United States in a better position to woo foreign investment.

Using a salesman's delivery, Obama told the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit: "So, to all the business leaders here today, and around the world, we want to be your partner in helping to write the next chapter in our history."

Obama singled out steps designed to improve the marketing of the United States:

—Attracting foreign investment will be a priority for U.S. ambassadors.

—Giving businesses a single point of contact within the federal government to cut through national, state and local red tape.

—Providing cities, states and regions with research and analysis to help them attract foreign investors.

A new White House economic report says foreign direct investments to the U.S. totaled $166 billion in 2012. The report says most of that investment comes from a small number of industrialized countries.

Obama said some U.S. based firms are bringing back some of their foreign-based operations, singling out Ford Motor Co. and Caterpillar Inc. among them.

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Follow Jim Kuhnhenn at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn