U.S. manufacturers face a 20% cost disadvantage in the global market that needs to be addressed by presidential candidates as one of their top issues in this election year, said National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.
Timmons spoke with IndustryWeek Jan. 20 shortly before his state of manufacturing speech at The City Club of Cleveland.
Tax reform, energy policy and free-trade agreements will be some of the keys to cutting the cost differential, Timmons said.
Timmons referred to President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit Jan. 18 as a "triumph of politics over sound policy." TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline will likely reapply for the permit and gain approval after the election, Timmons said.
But delaying approval another year is a lost opportunity for a nation facing an 8.5% unemployment rate, Timmons said.
On energy policy, Timmons said the nation should adopt an "all-of-the-above" approach that supports the use of various natural resources including shale gas and clean coal.
In Ohio, where Timmons was preparing for his address, the state is determining how to move forward on shale-gas drilling policies.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Jan. 19 shows 72% of Ohioans want to delay hydraulic fracturing until more studies are conducted on its impact. Of those polled, 43% say they believe fracking will damage the environment.
Companies are working with government agencies to ensure shale-gas drilling is safe, Timmons said.
"Companies don't want safety or health risks to occur because it's the right thing to do, and they don't want to harm their brand," Timmons said.
But Timmons is concerned that the Obama administration has adopted an adversarial approach to regulations that has stifled investment.
He criticized the Environmental Protection Agency as an out-of-control bureaucracy that has pushed for unreasonable and burdensome regulations. He pointed to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's push for stricter smog standards, which President Obama eventually withdrew.