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Tom Donohue: A Plan for Economic Renewal

Four areas rank among the business community's priorities for 2011

In these early days of 2011, with fears of a double-dip recession behind us, we are cautiously optimistic that the state of American business is improving. This is because of both the impressive resilience of our economy and the enactment of the tax relief package late last month. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce projects that the economy will have more robust growth in 2011.

Although our economy seems to be improving, the recovery is fragile and we still face many significant challenges. Unemployment has now exceeded 9 percent for 20 consecutive months. We must contend with unprecedented competitive challenges from abroad. And America faces unsustainable — and potentially crippling — long-term financial burdens.

The immediate concern must be sustaining this recovery and putting Americans back to work. But we also must take the steps necessary to make our country more competitive in the global marketplace and enable us to tackle the long-term fiscal crisis. Four areas rank among the business community’s priorities in 2011 —  reining in excessive regulations, expanding American trade, rebuilding our economic platforms, and reducing deficits and debt.

First, we must restrain excessive regulation while reforming the regulatory process. At the federal level alone, regulations cost Americans $1.7 trillion a year — and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This regulatory tsunami poses the single biggest threat to job creation and the future of American free enterprise.

Second, we will fight to advance a pro-America trade agenda with the goal of doubling exports in five years and creating millions of new jobs. To overcome public mistrust of trade, we’ll soon launch a major initiative to educate citizens and policymakers on the link between global engagement and American jobs.

Third, we must refocus on rebuilding the platforms and institutions that support our economy. Infrastructure of all kinds must be modernized and expanded. We also must recommit ourselves to developing our human capital by reforming education and training programs.

Finally, businesses, like all Americans, must do their part to help address another defining challenge of our times — the expansion of government spending and entitlements, and with it, the explosion of government debt. Conventional wisdom says that no effort to address deficits will be considered until after the 2012 elections. We can’t wait that long. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will support congressional efforts to reduce spending, even if we don’t like all the details.

The challenges facing us this year are big, but so are the opportunities to ensure that the American Dream is once again within our grasp. Throughout it all, the business community will lead the way.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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