US business lobby spent $35m fighting Obama plans

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The Independent Online

Friction between the business community and the Obama administration was on display in the third quarter, as the US Chamber of Commerce spent a record $34.7m (£20.9m) lobbying against a raft of legislation that it said will be bad for business.

The breakdown of spending, revealed in a quarterly filing, shows that the debate on health insurance reform occupied the largest chunk of the organisation's time and money, but the group has also been battling Barack Obama's plans to create a new regulatory agency to cover consumer financial products and to introduce a carbon cap-and-trade scheme to tackle global warming.

There are also growing fissures between the organisation and the administration over trade policy. This week, the Chamber of Commerce vice-president, Bruce Josten, warned that the US would see its share of global trade fall if it did not quickly push new free-trade agreements with emerging markets.

Mr Obama's predecessor George W Bush signed free-trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, but they have not been ratified by Congress. The Chamber of Commerce accuses the White House of failing to press the issue because of Democratic Party ties to unions. "We don't have a trade agenda that I can find for this administration," Mr Josten said. "We're ceding market share." Canada recently signed a free trade pact with Colombia, and the European Union penned a deal with South Korea last week.

The $34.7m bill for the three months to the end of September included money to pay for a dozen lobbyists to visit Congress. The US Chamber of Commerce claims to be the world's biggest business organisation, representing three million companies. Its stance against climate change laws has thrown it into turmoil, however.

Apple and Pacific Gas and Electric are among the high-profile firms that resigned membership in protest. Last month, Nike resigned from the chamber's board.