While White House officials say they have been waiting on Congress to act, Obama’s critics, primarily on the political left, say he has repeatedly failed in other ways to protect American jobs from being moved overseas. They point to a range of actions they say he should have taken: confronting China, reining in unfettered trade and reworking a U.S. visa program that critics say ends up sending high-tech jobs abroad.

The issue of overseas outsourcing has returned to the center of the presidential campaign, with Obama hammering the record of Mitt Romney’s financial company. The debate intensified in recent weeks with Obama’s campaign attacking his Republican rival after a Washington Post article reported that Romney’s private-equity firm, Bain Capital, had invested in companies that specialized in helping other firms relocate work overseas. …

Administration officials say Obama has avoided labeling China a currency manipulator because that would prompt a trade conflict with the country. Such a clash could lead to retaliation by China that would hurt American companies and workers. Officials say quiet and persistent pressure on China is more effective — and over the past few years, the value of the renminbi has noticeably gained against the dollar, though the increase has slowed lately.