- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Business leaders said Tuesday they’ll tolerate President-elect Donald Trump’s style of pressuring individual companies publicly if he follows it up with an agenda of cutting regulations and business taxes.

Responding to Mr. Trump’s deal with air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier to keep jobs in the U.S., Business Roundtable Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman said it’s similar to governors competing for companies to relocate in their states.

He acknowledged Mr. Trump’s tactic could be uncomfortable for “some of us [who] may share our term in the bull’s eye a little bit.”

“If we combine that with policy of a very aggressive pro-job creation environment, I think we’re going to be happy with the end of that,” said Mr. Oberhelman, who is chairman of Caterpillar Inc.

Mr. Trump also rattled the business community Tuesday by saying he wants to cancel the government’s order with Boeing for a new Air Force One, because the cost has risen to more than $4 billion.

A new poll Tuesday found that Mr. Trump’s move with Carrier is playing well with the public. The Morning Consult/POLITICO national poll showed 6 out of 10 voters said the Carrier deal made them view the president-elect in a more positive light. That included 89 percent of Trump voters and 32 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters.

Business Roundtable President John Engler said Mr. Trump won’t need to engage in much arm-twisting with corporate chiefs if his administration quickly fosters pro-business policies next year.

“If we get the underlying foundation right, the right tax policy, the right immigration policy and the right regulatory policy, we’re just flat out going to be a lot more competitive and you’ll see a lot less need for this [persuasion],” Mr. Engler said.

The Roundtable released its quarterly survey Tuesday showing that business leaders are projecting stronger sales and hiring under the incoming Trump administration, but they’re panning the president-elect’s proposed 35 percent tariff on companies importing products made overseas.

The survey of CEOs for the fourth quarter found expectations for an improving job market over the next six months, while they projected overall economic growth of only 2 percent next year, a relatively slow rate.

Mr. Oberhelman said industry chiefs are eager for Mr. Trump to roll back costly regulations, craft business tax reform with Congress and boost spending on infrastructure. Until those changes occur, he said, business leaders plan to curtail their capital expenses.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion last weekend of a 35 percent tariff on goods produced offshore is raising concerns among business leaders who fear retaliation from foreign governments against products made in the U.S.

“A 35 percent tariff on incoming goods sounds good until you realize that our big markets — Brazil, China, India, Europe — the retaliation from that could be a 35 percent tariff on our goods being exported,” Mr. Oberhelman said. “We have competitors all over the world. We’re looking at being held out of a number of markets if there’s a retaliation.”

And that could cost U.S. jobs. He said more than 80 percent of Caterpillar’s equipment produced at its midwestern plants is exported.

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