The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, although no doubt leaning Republican and backing politicians with pro-business agendas, never takes a stance on presidential preferences. And 2020 will be no exception.
But that hardly means the Chamber will be sitting on the sidelines when it comes to transport and logistics’ priorities this year.
In some respects, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue says, 2020 will be a year of “frantic activity” even if it passes on whether to endorse President Donald Trump for a second term.
“The high drama of impeachment continues to unfold, and once that gets resolved, we can get back to politics, politics, politics,” Donohue said in his annual State of American Business address on Jan. 9.
Donohue said if conventional wisdom holds, this election year makes it difficult to make strides on just about anything else, such as the infrastructure deal that Donohue said the nation “desperately needs” to modernize the physical platform of this economy.
Infrastructure talks blew up last May in a wave of acrimony over politics. While that is sidelined indefinitely, Congress does face a must-pass highway funding bill to replace the 2015 FAST Act, which expires in September.
Donohue said the nation also needs to reform our immigration system to ensure businesses have the workers they need, including an estimated shortage of some 60,000 truck drivers.
“Does it sound like we can afford to take the year off? Of course not!” Donohue said. “Inaction is not an option.”
Donohue says this “can and must be a year of significant action” on many pro-business items.
“We don’t focus on what can’t be done,” he said. “We focus on what can be done. This can, will and must be a year of significant action.”
Donohue said his goal this year is “to flip the conventional wisdom that nothing gets done in an election year. It’s because it’s an election year that folks will want and need to be productive.”
So even if the idea of raising the fuel tax – stagnant since 1993 – remains a long shot in an election year, the 82-year-old Donohue remains relentlessly optimistic for this year’s pro-business initiatives.
“We’re about the art of the possible, and the imperative of leadership,” Donohue said. “The states are moving. The world is moving. And you better believe, business is moving.”
Donohue said the state of American business “may be uncertain, but the spirit of American business is undaunted. It is resolute. It is determined. And it is relentlessly focused on leading into an important year, through a pivotal decade, and toward a future that remains as bright as ever.”
Focusing on the states, Donohue singled out California for what he called an anti-business initiative which limits the hours freelancers and independent contractors (including truck drivers) can work without being classified as employees. The independent truck drivers have been issued a temporary waiver but the future of the law may well be decided in court.
“It is already creating confusion and uncertainty for businesses and workers,” Donohue said. The Chamber released a new report on how aggressive new state regulations of the gig economy will suppress business opportunities and limit consumer choice and services.
“Unfortunately, the impact extends far beyond the gig economy,” Donohue said. “These regulations affect everything from trucking and construction, to information technology and insurance, and even newspaper reporting—with potentially huge effects on our national economy. Clearly, there is more at stake here than just a couple of states adopting bad laws.”
Donohue called the independent contractor definition “a national fight,” adding the Chamber will bring the full weight of its resources and federation of state and local chambers to reform or defeat these proposals.
The Chamber remains relentlessly pro-trade even in the face of isolationism forces around the globe.
“So let’s open more markets for American-made goods and services and create more opportunities for American businesses to grow—remember, 95% of the world’s customers live beyond our shores,” Donohue said.
He said the imminent passage of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) creates “new momentum for the kinds of high-standard trade agreements that will keep us on the leading edge.”
Donohue said the U.S. needs new negotiated agreements with the United Kingdom and European Union, Japan, Brazil, and burgeoning markets in Africa. And the U.S. must find a way to keep and expand our footing in the booming Asia-Pacific, he said.
“We need to tear down barriers to trade, and limit the use of tariffs,” Donohue said. “Let’s not forget, American businesses and consumers pay the tariffs.”
While the Chamber never engages in presidential politics, Donohue said the Chamber will praise or criticize proposals by presidential candidates from both parties.
“We will lead the opposition to the policies that undermine the job creators, that penalize the innovators, and that target the wealth creators and investors that allow Americans to provide for their families and plan for their futures,” Donohue promised.
Get news, papers, media & research, delivered.
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job. Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Supply Chain 24/7.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date.