"I suspect that temperatures need to cool a little bit in the wake of my executive actions," Obama said of immigration, during an appearance before the Business Roundtable. "I don’t think that that’s something that this Congress will be able to do right away. My suspicion is they’ll take a couple of stabs at rolling back what I’ve done, and then perhaps folks will step back and say, 'Well, rather than just do something partial that we may not be completely satisfied with, let’s engage with the president to see if we can do something more comprehensive that addresses some of our concerns,' but also addresses my concerns as well."
Obama, who is scheduled to meet with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday afternoon at the White House, suggested "there is definitely a deal to be done" on corporate tax reform and said it would be crucial to cut a deal on taxes as a way to provide new revenue to invest in infrastructure.
Reflecting on his recent trip to an economic summit in China, Obama marveled at the hotel and conference center where he stayed in Beijing and said: "One thing is that if they need to build some stuff, they can build it. Over time, that wears away our advantage competitively. It's embarrassing."
The conference center, he added "would put most conference centers here to shame. It was built in a year. Now, you've got an authoritarian government that isn't necessarily accountable. I understand we're not going to do that. But if they're able to build their ports, their airports, their smart grid, their air traffic control systems, their broadband systems with that rapidity, and they're superior to ours, over time that's going to be a problem for us."
On trade, where Obama's push to finalize a pair of multi-nation free trade pacts has been opposed by fellow Democrats, the president indicated he would push forward to enlist support from his own party.
"Those who oppose these trade deals are ironically accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers," he said. "We're going to have to engage directly friends in labor and environmental organizations to try to get from them why they think."
Obama was asked to discuss the United States' geopolitical challenges, and he said he maintained "less optimism" about his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin than he did his relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"I have a direct, businesslike and blunt relationship with Putin," he said. "If you ask me am I optimistic that Putin will suddenly change his mindset [on Russian intervention in Ukraine] I would say that's not going to happen until the politics inside Russia catch up to the economics inside Russia" that have been harmed by western sanctions.
Of the Middle East, Obama said the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic extremists in Iraq was likely to make gains more quickly than it will inside Syria, where the ongoing civil war has complicated the situation.
The region "is going through a generational shift, a tectonic shift," he said. "It is messy, and it is dangerous. ... The whole region has gone down a blind alley where too often Islam is equated with a rejection of education, with women's participation -- all the things that allow you to thrive in a modern economy."