No meaningful U.S. trade pact in a decade and a Biden 'consumed with caution… is doing little to change that': Chamber of Commerce

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By Victor Reklaitis

‘Policies are creating headwinds’ for stocks despite records, says U.S. Chamber official

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s head on Tuesday warned the federal government that her group will continue to battle against what it views as any overreach by Washington, as she also criticized the Biden administration’s approach to trade.

“Despite the clear innovation, the resilience and the dynamism of our economy, we have leaders who think the government needs to step in and impose a heavy hand,” said the lobbying group’s president and CEO, Suzanne Clark, as she delivered an annual “State of American Business” address.

“The Biden administration introduced a sweeping executive order based on the false premise that our entire economy is overconcentrated and stagnant. Modern-day trust-busters on Capitol Hill from both parties think all big is bad and necessarily a threat to small — when in fact, our economy is an ecosystem where big business depends on small companies and vice versa.”

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Clark promised opposition along multiple fronts from the chamber, which is the country’s biggest business-lobbying group.

“If bureaucrats and elected officials don’t stop getting in the way, we will stop them. We will challenge overreach and defend the rule of law at every turn, in every agency, with every tool at our disposal — in Washington, in statehouses, and in the courts,” she said.

Clark said the Federal Trade Commission has “taken such an aggressive stance against mergers and acquisitions that small- and medium-sized businesses fear they’ll have worked for years to build something and yet have no exit strategy if they choose to sell.”

“These are just a few examples of the threat of government overreach that now confronts businesses of all sizes and undermines our fragile economic recovery,” she added. “There are numerous others — from the proposed partisan tax and spending spree to fund a massive expansion of the federal government to aggressive oversight and overregulation from agencies like the FCC and the CFPB to enforcement from the DOJ, the EPA and the IRS.”

She was referring to the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.

The chamber CEO also said the U.S. is falling behind on trade.

“While other economies race to ink new deals, the U.S. has not entered an agreement with a new trade partner in a decade, and the current administration, consumed by caution and internal reviews, is doing little to change that,” she said. “In fact, it has yet to embrace even relatively uncontroversial initiatives such as a trade agreement with the U.K., our closest ally.”

In a news conference after the speech, an official from the chamber responded to a MarketWatch question on what the stock market could be saying so far about the Biden administration. The S&P 500 has gained 24% over the past 12 months.

“Elected officials of both parties, when the markets are up, have a tendency to point to the market and see it as a validation of their policies, and when markets are down to point to it and say it has nothing to do with policies. The truth is there are a lot of factors driving markets today, including the surprising strength by which the private sector is coming out of the pandemic,” said Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer.

“So I think that is contributing to the stock market and the S&P levels that we’re seeing, but it’s also true that policies are creating headwinds, and so it’s a balancing act. I think we shouldn’t be too quick to take a snapshot in time of a market around an inauguration or an election day and somehow attribute that purely to incumbents.”

A year ago, the chamber’s “State of American Business” speech emphasized the group’s opposition to potential increases in some regulations or taxes, and it also called for infrastructure (PAVE) spending as well as improved trade relations. That address came a week before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and it was delivered by the chamber’s former CEO, Thomas Donohue, a longtime Washington fixture who still serves on the group’s board of directors.

U.S. stock benchmarks traded higher on Tuesday, as investors appeared to take testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in stride as they looked for clues on future increases for interest rates.

-Victor Reklaitis

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-11-22 1521ET

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