US business calls on White House, Congress for jobs growth

31 August 2011 18:57  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US manufacturers, construction contractors and energy industry leaders on Wednesday called on the White House and Congress to allow more domestic energy production, to invest in infrastructure, to approve trade deals and to remove regulatory burdens in order to stimulate job growth and the economy.

Various US business interests have begun pitching jobs development proposals to US policymakers in advance of a major employment policy speech next week by President Barack Obama.

With US unemployment persistently high at around 9%, an anaemic and even faltering economic recovery, the debt crisis and US credit rating downgrade, and facing his own declining approval ratings, Obama has promised a comprehensive new jobs-growth plan.

The president has asked for a joint session of Congress on 7 September, Wednesday of next week, when he said he will lay out his proposals.

In anticipation of that major address, business and industry are offering their own suggestions on what federal policymakers can do – and stop doing – to stimulate both the economy and employment.

“The economic data tells the story,” said US Chamber of Commerce chief economist Martin Regalia in a press conference on Wednesday. 

“The current policies coming out of Washington are not creating economic growth,” he said, “and both the administration and Congress need to come together to remove barriers to job creation and open up new markets.”

The chamber said it would provide a detailed jobs-growth plan for the White House next week, but Regalia said it would include recommendations for increasing domestic oil and natural gas production and government investments and incentives to rebuild US infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, inland waterways, rail and port facilities and expanded electricity transmission lines.

He also urged prompt White House action on three long-pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. 

The trade deals were worked out under the Bush administration in 2005-2006, but before advancing the agreements, the Obama White House wants more compensation and job training benefits for US workers who may be displaced by cheaper foreign labour.

“Approving the pending trade agreements will not only save 380,000 jobs but will also create thousands of new ones in America,” Regalia said.

“Perhaps more than anything, we need to remove regulatory barriers that are weighing down our economy,” he added.

Increased US public and private sector spending on such infrastructure projects would increase demand for a wide range of US petrochemicals, chemicals and resins.

Separately, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) urged the Obama administration to abandon its repeated calls for elimination of tax credits and incentives for energy production and instead to lift restrictions on onshore and offshore drilling.

The association, whose member firms account for more than 90% of all oil and gas wells drilled in the US, argued that expanded domestic energy production would quickly create tens of thousands of new jobs, generate more consumer spending and raise more revenue for federal and state governments facing budget cuts.

In another policy pitch, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) called on policymakers to repeal taxes that burden small and medium construction firms, increase tax credits for energy efficiency and double federal spending on transportation infrastructure.

All of these proposals, however, and Obama’s coming policy pronouncements are expected to run into a strong anti-spending sentiment in the US House of Representatives, where the Republican majority is opposed to any increase in federal spending that would add to the country’s $14 trillion (€9.7 trillion) national debt.

($1 = €0.69)

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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