U.S. chamber pledges cooperation with Clinton

November 18, 1992|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The nation's leading business organization said yesterday that it was ready to pursue commonality rather than conflict with the Democratic administration of President-elect Bill Clinton.

"We are quite clear that there is going to be a time down the road for us to disagree and for us to have more than a few, if you will, battles," said William T. Archey, chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "But that is not the way the chamber wants to start out.

"It's a new ballgame," he said. "We want to see Bill Clinton succeed because we think the country needs him to succeed."

Speaking at a news conference in Washington yesterday, Mr. Archey said that officials at the chamber, which made no presidential endorsement during the campaign, were heartened by the "extraordinarily positive" attitude from business executives in Arkansas toward Mr. Clinton's years as governor.

Among the issues on which the chamber sees the prospect of cooperation with the new administration:

* The need for a balanced package of economic stimulus and deficit reduction.

* Tax breaks to foster investment.

* Health-care cost containment and reform.

* Passage of a balanced budget amendment.

* A new emphasis on industrial training, although the chamber has misgivings about a mandated tax equal to 1.5 percent of payroll, which Mr. Clinton has proposed levying to pay for such training.

* Civilian use of military research money.

* A shared readiness for closer government-business relations.

"I am quite confident we can work with the new president and come up with a pro-growth package that will get the economy going again," said Lawrence A. Hunter, the chamber's chief economist.

He also noted a "growing agreement . . . that we can stop wringing our hands quite so much about the deficit in the near term if there is a long-term commitment to deficit reduction."

Many economists expect Mr. Clinton to increase the deficit initially to produce the economic growth needed to reduce it later. Mr. Hunter said the chamber, which represents more than 200,000 businesses and 2,850 state and local chambers

throughout the country, favors stimulating growth through immediate tax cuts, with a long-term commitment to cut spending.

Among issues that could lead to conflict, however, are:

* Increased taxes on the wealthy.

* Political use of economic sanctions to pressure foreign governments.

* Over-regulation of industry.

* Stricter tax enforcement on foreign corporations, which could invite retaliation against U.S. companies.

* The use of narrowly targeted investment tax credits to shape a federal industrial policy.

* Strengthened environmental enforcement, with chief executive officers possibly being held personally responsible for corporate violations.

* The pursuit of a labor relations policy that runs counter to business interests.

Jeffrey H. Joseph, chamber vice president for domestic policy, noted that organized labor had supported Mr. Clinton's election and would seek "to get everything that has been pent up for the past 20 years."

"A number of the people in the business community are nervous about this area," said Mr. Joseph, who said he expected the new administration to push for the sort of family leave legislation vetoed by President Bush, to tighten worker safety and health standards and to introduce minimum-wage legislation.

On international affairs, the chamber welcomed Mr. Clinton's plan to elevate economics to a high priority of U.S. foreign policy and to create an Economic Security Council, which would coordinate global and domestic economic policies.

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