Business leaders said Monday they are digging in their heels to push an Asia-Pacific deal through Congress this year.
Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar and chairman of Business Roundtable, defended the business community’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) lobbying campaign, saying they will not give up the fight and are locked into non-stop full-court press mode.
“We have never been more active on anything than we have as the Business Roundtable,” Oberhelman told reporters on a conference call to discuss the group’s third quarter CEO economic outlook.
“We have put on an absolute full-court press in Washington, locally within our own employees and within our own districts and so on, really since the beginning of the summer,” he said.
To that end, there are weekly calls with the Obama administration, daily meetings on Capitol Hill and local events in their factories and in congressional districts across the country, he said.
“Our goal here is quite simply to keep this very much in the forefront of everyone’s thinking,” Oberhelman said.
Oberhelman also credited the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their efforts to pass the sweeping agreement.
BRT President John Engler said the goal remains for Congress to vote before the end of the year.
Engler said the chances for TPP have improved in recent months with voters expressing more optimistic views amid the anti-trade rhetoric in the presidential campaigns by Democratic nomineeHillary Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump.
“Public support for TPP has come up,” Engler said.
“That’s remarkable given the unprecedented opposition from the two major presidential candidates,” he said.
Looking at the broader picture, Engler is convinced that “all the arguments are lining up for TPP.”
President Obama is urging Congress to pass the TPP before he leaves office but he is facing an uphill battle with leaders on Capitol Hill who are showing little interest in considering the massive agreement in a lame-duck session after the November elections.
The elections are doing more than creating heartburn on trade.
CEOs are generally holding steady on their expectations for the economy heading into November.
“At this time of every election cycle, especially after a two-term president, there is a degree of uncertainty,” Oberhelman said.
The business executives reported lower expectations for sales, mostly unchanged plans for hiring and nearly flat plans for capital spending in the July-September period.
Overall, the results suggest that the U.S. economy will continue chugging along at a lackluster rate of growth.
Business executives expect 2.2 percent growth for the year, a slight increase from their last estimate of 2.1 percent.
“This reflects the unfortunate new normal,” Oberhelman said. “The U.S. economy is pretty much stuck in neutral rather than moving forward,” he said.
The survey showed that business leaders expectations for sales over the next six months to declined by 9.3 points, while expectations for hiring declined by 3.4 points from last quarter. CEO plans for capital expenditures ticked up slightly by 0.8 point from last quarter.