U.S. business lobby wants smooth Obamacare repeal, warns on trade

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By Ginger Gibson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The largest U.S. business lobby group
on Wednesday said it could be a mistake to quickly repeal
Obamacare without developing a replacement healthcare insurance
plan and urged the incoming Trump administration not to erect
trade barriers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce faces challenges with the next
U.S. president and his team, including overcoming deep divisions
on key issues like trade while trying to work together on common
goals like repealing President Barack Obama’s signature 2010
healthcare law.

The group opposed that restructuring, which extended medical
coverage to millions of Americans, as an unnecessary burden on
business. The Republican-controlled Congress earlier this month
began working to repeal it.

“As a new healthcare plan takes shape, it’s important to
remember things were far from perfect before we started, before
Obamacare,” Chamber President Tom Donohue said in his annual
address outlining the group’s priorities.

“Repeal alone is not going to fix our health care, there
should be a smooth transition.”

At a news conference later in the day in New York, U.S.
President-elect Donald Trump said he was going to submit a plan
to Congress that would outline a replacement plan.

“It’ll be repeal and replace, it’ll be essentially
simultaneously,” Trump said.

The Chamber has historically been tightly aligned with
Republicans, especially during the Obama administration when it
fought against the healthcare law and criticized what it saw as
heavy-handed regulation of the financial sector.

But the lobby group, which says it represents more than 3
million businesses and professional organizations, has clashed
with Trump over his positions on trade and immigration.

Trump has threatened large taxes against companies that
produce goods in other countries and import them into the United
States – a move that would be counter to the U.S. Chamber’s
desire to allow for free trade across international boarders.

Many in corporate America worry that if the Republican
businessman-turned-politician begins to levy taxes against
imported goods, nations like China will in turn impose large
taxes and fees against U.S. goods that are exported there.

“It’s important that the new administration does not add to
the burdens facing our exporters or the thousands whose jobs
depend on exports by erecting barriers to trade,” Donohue said.

The Chamber will continue to press Trump on supporting the
framework of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement
that the incoming president frequently vowed to tear up once
taking office, Donohue said.

Donohue argued that the agreement, even if recreated under a
different name, would bring “significant geopolitical and
security benefits.”

“(Trump) knows the value of trade in terms of economic
growth,” he said.


Donohue also predicted that U.S. interest rates would rise
this year, impacting the dollar and making it more difficult for
American companies to compete in foreign markets.

In trying to work with the administration on trade, Donohue
said Trump’s selection of people to work in his administration,
including Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department, is

“The two things I’ve been most impressed by with this new
administration is the quality and the capability of people
they’ve appointed,” he said.

On issues where the Chamber agrees with Trump, Donohue
renewed calls to roll back regulations imposed by the 2010
Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and said he agreed with calls
to change the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has
been opposed by Republicans who say it restricts lending.

“If this organization is going to be kept – it ought to be
kept – it ought to have three, five or various commissioners,”
Donohue said.

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