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January 11, 2012

US Chamber Says Business-Friendly Policies Needed to Grow Economy

by Mil Arcega

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the economy is starting to show signs of life.  But the business federation says the world's biggest economy is still growing too slowly.  The Chamber, which represents more than three million U.S. companies, acknowledges very little is likely to get done in an election year.  But it's calling on lawmakers to enact policies to get America working again.  

In his annual address on the state of American businesses, U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donohue says the economy is improving.  But he says it's not growing fast enough to significantly reduce unemployment.

"Unfortunately, we think the economy will actually slow down in the early months of 2012," said Donohue. "We expect growth to average 2.5 percent or lower in the first half and then hopefully, depending on the actions of government, to work its way up to 3 percent by the end of this year."

With a tough re-election battle facing some lawmakers this year, Bruce Josten, who heads the Chamber's Government Affairs unit, expects the group will be busy lobbying Congress to move quickly on business-friendly policies.

"In some respects politicking is going to take precedence over policy making," said Josten. "We hope to change that."

Among the Chamber's top priorities is construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  The 3,000 kilometer pipeline will carry more than 700,000 barrels of Canadian oil a day to refineries in Texas.  Donohue says the $7 billion dollar project will improve America's energy security and create thousands of new jobs.  

"The project has passed every environmental test," he said. "There is no legitimate reason, none at all to subject it to further delay."

Despite bipartisan approval for the pipeline, President Barack Obama is under intense pressure from environmentalists to scrap it. The Chamber, which insists it does not get involved in presidential politics, says it will lean hard on the president to move forward.  It also chastised Republican candidates on Thursday for criticizing front-runner Mitt Romney's business experience.