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Tom Donohue: The State of American Business, Part 1

By Tom Donohue |

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we begin each year by taking stock of the challenges and opportunities that will confront businesses, our economy and the nation in our annual State of American Business address. What’s in store for 2014?

After a sluggish and uneven economic recovery, we now have the chance to turn the page. Our economy is gaining momentum, and growth is expected to accelerate as the year goes on.

But we aren’t out of the woods yet. Many businesses remain hampered by Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and other laws and regulations that are creating great uncertainty. There are still 21 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. American workers have not seen a substantial increase in pay in recent years.

Our challenge today is to maintain the growth we have finally achieved, accelerate it and create the millions of new jobs we still badly need. We must embrace and expand policies to drive growth and reform or modernize policies that threaten to choke it off.

We have tremendous opportunities for growth through trade and energy. We can get more American goods and services into lucrative markets around the world by passing Trade Promotion Authority, which would significantly smooth the way for ratifying new deals. Then, we should swiftly complete free trade agreements with Europe and our Pacific trading partners. With more trade pacts on the books, demand for U.S. products will go up — and job creation with it.

Likewise, accelerating the revolution in American energy could put millions of people back to work, attract manufacturing to our shores and generate a gusher of government revenue that can help us deal with our many fiscal challenges. The revolution is under way, but it will never reach its potential if we don’t have the right national policies.

Stronger growth also requires us to rethink some existing policies. Passage of commonsense immigration reform would add jobs, innovation, investment and dynamism to our economy. Modernizing our regulatory system and reforming government would remove uncertainty, speed investment, and get America moving and building again.

We must also address the serious flaws in Obamacare. The law is disrupting the health care of millions of Americans as well as costing jobs and forcing many companies to cut working hours. And our entitlement programs must be restructured to curtail unsustainable spending while ensuring that they remain solvent for future generations.

In next week’s column, I’ll discuss the importance of political engagement to pro-growth policies, and how, with the right leadership, we can restore not only economic prosperity, but also America’s promise of opportunity for all.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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