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US Chamber leader hopeful Trump will take moderate view on trade

February 16, 2017
By Sam Karlin
Originally Posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said today he’s hopeful President Donald Trump will soften his view on trade policies such as NAFTA, which the president blasted as being one-sided and unfair toward Americans during his presidential campaign.

Trump’s views on international trade policies have been at odds with traditional Republican orthodoxy, Donohue noted during a panel discussion at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting. But the chamber president is convinced Trump will generally move toward a more moderate stance on trade.

“The president of the U.S. has proven in many examples of late that when he gets better informed he moderates his views,” Donohue said, noting a recent change in tone after the president met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I think we’re going to see a more moderate approach [on trade].”

In a wide-ranging panel discussion—which also included LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack and Danos Executive Vice President Eric Danos—Donohue said he hopes the president will champion a drastic rollback of federal regulations and increased energy production that would have a positive impact on Louisiana businesses. The regulatory system, Donohue said, is killing U.S. jobs, adding that Trump can circumvent Congress to make changes.

Donohue also advocated for an increase to the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents for standard gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel, and addressed topics such as the Affordable Care Act, immigration, taxes and economic growth, among others.

Donohue lauded Betsy DeVos, the nation’s new education secretary, and encouraged the meeting’s attendees to “keep an open mind” about immigrants in light of the Trump administration’s stance on immigration.

As for increasing gas taxes, the Louisiana Legislature is expected to consider proposals to increase the state gas tax later this year. When asked how to convince anti-tax Republicans in the Legislature to get on board, Donohue said people would be “happy to pay it” to fix roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs.

The panel largely favored conservative policies in Congress and in state legislatures that would drive more potent economic growth throughout the country.

They also agreed on tort reform, changes to both federal or state tax code, regulations and championing trade.