The public policy agendas of four leading American business organizations -- the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) -- were widely reflected in the economic section of U.S. President Bush's Feb. 2 State of the Union Address to Congress. Among them: tort reform, a comprehensive energy policy, health-care reform and tax reform. Describing his plan for tax reform, the President used the term "pro-growth," the same words the NAM uses to characterize its entire set of public-policy proposals.
Conspicuous by its absence, however, was any mention of trade issues, major concerns of the NAM and the Business Roundtable. There was no mention of completing the current round of world trade negotiations, of seeking Congressional approval for the pending free-trade pact between the U.S. and several Central American countries, or of continuing to work on a hemisphere-wide Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Significantly, there was no presidential call on Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which allows the White House to submit trade agreements to Capitol Hill for approval or disapproval but not for amendment. In the past, other nations have refused to bargain seriously with the United States without TPA, or its predecessor, Fast-Track Authority, being in place. Bush's trade negotiating authority will expire later this year, unless Congress renews it.