New pacts to expand global trade and investment, infrastructure investment, tax and regulatory reform, and policies encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production will help speed up growth for a U.S. economy that continued to underachieve in 2013, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donahue said Wednesday in his annual “State of Business” address.
The mixed signs of economic recovery were underscored Friday when the Labor Department released figures showing the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7 percent in November, but that the economy only created 74,000 jobs — the fewest in three years. Many economists had expected about 200,000 new jobs last month. The drop in the unemployment rate mostly occurred because many people stopped looking for work.
“It’s convenient to blame all this on the severity of the downturn, but let’s face facts: Misguided government policies have also slowed our growth and cost Americans a lot of jobs and raises. We must fix these mistakes and not repeat them going forward.
“This year we have an opportunity to turn the page. Overall growth for 2013 will probably come between just 1.8 percent and 2 percent. We should do considerably better this year — with growth accelerating to near 3 percent,” Donahue said.
Donahue urged Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority that paves the way for fast-track approval of trade agreements and urged the administration to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership and U.S.-European Union trade deals currently being negotiated. The TPP must include strong intellectual property rights protections in order to earn the Chamber’s unqualified support, he warned.
The two-year surface transportation spending blueprint expires in September, and the U.S. Chamber will be active trying to get a bill that includes new revenue sources to support capital improvement in highways, transit and rail systems.
Other items on the Chamber’s agenda include modifying the new health care bill and Dodd-Frank financial rules, the tax system and costly regulations, as well as streamlining the permitting system.