The New Year brings hopes for a productive stretch ahead. At the U.S. Chamber it also means it’s time for the annual State of American Business Address.
This year’s will be on Thursday, January 10.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue will discuss the U.S. economy and highlight the policies needed to support businesses, workers, families, and economic growth.
Let’s look ahead to the event by looking back to last year’s address to highlight some of the U.S. Chamber’s achievements.
Throughout 2018 businesses cried out about the need for more workers.
“One of the most common concerns we hear from our members of all sizes and industries, and from across the country, is that they can’t find the qualified workers they need to grow their businesses,” said Donohue. “The Chamber believes that we need an all-of-the-above approach to address the dual challenge of people without jobs, and jobs without people.”
That “all-of-the-above approach” included tackling the opioid crisis. More than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses since 2000, affecting families, communities, and businesses.
In March, the U.S. Chamber brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to collaborate on finding solutions. Later in the year, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation that tackles the crisis from many angles, including supporting prevention, recovery, and treatment.
On the education front, after many years of work, Congress passed a reauthorization of federal career and technical education programs. The legislation helps align career and technical education (CTE) programs with the needs of regional, state, and local labor markets.
As Donohue noted emphatically, “We cannot build a 21st century economy on 20th century infrastructure.”
By working with leaders in the administration and in Congress, progress was made to get to rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure. For instance, President Trump endorsed a gas tax increase to pay for improved infrastructure.
The U.S. Chamber led the conversation on how to get it done by laying out a four-part plan to build the infrastructure our economy needs.
That conversation will continue. Both parties want better infrastructure, and the U.S. Chamber will work to forge a bipartisan consensus in 2019.
In addition, the U.S. Chamber helped get the FAA reauthorized and passed a water infrastructure bill to improve navigation, flood projects, and water systems.
Improving access to capital
“Even as our economy gains strength, there are some significant impediments and threats that are preventing businesses from starting, growing, and going public,” Donohue noted.
One of those is access to capital, so in May, after much work by the U.S. Chamber, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act which helps community and regional banks provide capital to consumers and Main Street business.
The U.S. Chamber warned the administration that using tariffs to address unfair trade policies and practices is The Wrong Approach. That work will continue in 2019.
Nevertheless, there were some trade wins last year.
In his speech, Donohue strongly advised that “we must strengthen our trading partnerships.” An important step was taken when the U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed to a modernized NAFTA — now the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The U.S. Chamber supports the USMCA and will work hard in 2019 to build support for the agreement in Congress.
In addition, in September, President Trump signed the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill into law that suspends tariffs through 2020 on nearly 1,700 products that aren’t produced in the U.S. This means lower costs on many raw materials and industrial inputs for U.S. manufacturers and families.
The U.S. Chamber will continue fighting to remove trade barriers hurting American businesses, farmers, and families.
The issues above only scratch the surface of what was accomplished.
It was a busy year in 2018, and 2019 will be no different.