The world's largest business federation says the United States faces very real problems from failing schools, rising healthcare costs and higher energy prices.  But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it is not too late for America to reaffirm its leadership role in the global economy.  VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says America is at a crossroads.  Although business and consumer confidence has suffered as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis and high oil prices, chamber president Tom Donohue says it is not too late to turn the situation around. "Our economy is resilient and the fundamentals of our society are strong.  But our future is clouded by Washington's failure to seriously address the core competitive challenges that will drive growth, opportunity and prosperity in the 21st century," he said.

Donahue on Tuesday discussed the nation's economic challenges in his annual state of business speech in Washington.

He called on U.S. lawmakers to enact reforms and improve America's competitiveness. "This year, we'll be working to pass specific measures on education, trade, aviation, health, [Information Technology] -- the protection of intellectual property -- the protection of due process rights and the extension and expansion of visa programs to address serious worker shortages," he said.

Some analysts expect the U.S. economy to decline this year, but Donohue expressed optimism. He said the economy is still growing and still creating jobs.

"While there is a risk of a recession, our view is that the economy, while growing slowly this year and perhaps picking up a little steam in the second half, will dodge the bullet and we won't actually have a recession," he added.

The chamber projects unemployment will rise slightly this year, but Donohue said inflation should remain moderate; making future interest rate cuts less likely as the year progresses.