- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An influential group of business leaders issued a call Wednesday for expanded immigration and approval of President Obama’s free-trade deal, two policies strongly opposed by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of major companies, said approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would improve the group’s second-quarter projections of modest economic growth in the U.S. Both Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, oppose the TPP.

“There is, on this, a fundamental difference in how we view the world compared to the leading presidential candidates,” said BRT President John Engler. He said the trade deal with Pacific-rim nations “remains a high priority” for business leaders who are urging Congress to approve the agreement this year, before a new president takes office.

BRT Chairman Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., said the business group is “doing all we can in high gear” to lobby lawmakers to approve TPP this year.

“That’s really why we’re ramping it up now. What happens later, happens later,” he said.

While declining to comment on Mr. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from the U.S., Mr. Oberhelman said “overall, immigration is good for business, and vice versa.”

Mr. Engler said many business sectors are “in an absolute fight for global talent.”

“Today, it’s a competition for the best talent — the best engineers, the best scientists,” he said. “We’re all in on the talent competition.”

The BRT’s survey found that CEOs’ economic expectations for sales, capital expenditures and hiring increased modestly, but GDP growth expectations have dipped. The group’s index — a composite of CEO projections for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months — increased modestly from 69.4 in the first quarter of 2016 to 73.5 in the second quarter.

But the survey also found that CEOs expect 2.1 percent growth, down from their 2.2 percent estimate in the first quarter of 2016.

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