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Tom Donohue: ‘Recovery Is Fragile and Uneven’

The agenda of the nation’s biggest business lobby comes down to one point: turning “an economic recovery into a jobs recovery,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said.

Donohue said in his annual State of American Business address that the chamber would focus its efforts this year on reforming the regulatory process, expanding free trade, building infrastructure and reducing deficits and debt, particularly through entitlement reforms.

“We still face a number of risks that could send us in the wrong direction, and our recovery is fragile and uneven,” he said.

Donohue said the chamber supports a repeal of the health care law as one way to overcome the nation’s “regulatory tsunami.” The repeal bill had been set for a vote Wednesday in the House, but was postponed because of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

“We see the upcoming House vote as an opportunity to take a fresh look at health care reform — and replace unworkable approaches with more efficient and effective measures,” Donohue said.

“It’s time to go back the drawing board,” he added.

Donohue also emphasized the trade agenda as a way to drive the economic recovery. The chamber will call for eliminating all tariffs on goods traded between the United States and the European Union, he said. And, as one way to double exports in five years, he cited an independent study that said eliminating tariffs would increase trans-Atlantic trade by more than $100 billion by 2015.

He also noted that the chamber will strongly push for approval of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“We must pull out all the stops to help the administration get the votes,” he said.

In an effort to tackle America’s debt crisis, Donohue said the chamber will back measures that might not please all of its members.

“Congress and the administration must also move swiftly to reduce spending,” he said. “The chamber will support strong proposals even if we don’t like all the details.”

Donohue ended his speech on a note of optimism about the American economy and said the chamber’s approach to Washington policymakers will be “to call them as we see them.” He said the lobby will work with the administration and with the House on many occasions, “but no one should expect the chamber to march in lock step with anyone.”

President Barack Obama, who had a fairly testy relationship with the business community during his first two years in office, is scheduled to address the chamber Feb. 7.

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