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Industry on Bush: Free Trade, Tax Reductions to Top Agenda

Presidents Bush’s second-term agenda should feature more free trade, further tax cuts and assistance for rising health care costs.

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s second-term agenda is likely to focus on boosting free trade, more tax cuts and providing government assistance to alleviate rising health care costs, industry executives said Wednesday.

As Bush formally claimed victory after John Kerry conceded the election, representatives of the troubled textile sector said they would push the administration to seek limits on surging Chinese imports, which are expected to soar even higher when global quotas are lifted on Jan. 1.

Retailers and other importers of apparel and textiles said they are counting on four more years of the U.S. aggressively pursuing international trade pacts that lower or eliminate tariffs. In addition, they said sending the Central American Free Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote could be among the president’s first trade initiatives in his second term.

“He’s not running for reelection again and he doesn’t have to please his [political] base,’’ said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “I’m very hopeful we’ll have an administration that is completely free trade.”

During a speech to the nation from the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, Bush said, “We will continue our economic progress. We’ll reform our outdated tax code. We’ll strengthen Social Security for the next generation.”

The President and Kerry, who will return to the U.S. Senate, also sounded themes of national unity after a long, expensive and rancorous campaign.

“We have one country, one Constitution and one future binds us,’’ Bush said.

Kerry, speaking outside historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, said: “In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor.”

Bush’s election to a second term, with his Republican Party increasing its majority in the House and Senate, suggests some policy certainties, industry executives said.

The president, in concert with GOP lawmakers in Congress, can press for a simplified federal tax code and push to make permanent his earlier tax cuts, such as the reduction of inheritance taxes. Likewise, there is a shared agenda between GOP leadership in Congress and the White House to lower health care costs, particularly for businesses shouldering double-digit increases to pay for employee policies.
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