U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin(L) speaks during a panel on 'Prospects for Tax Reform' at the Newseum, in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, April 26, 2017. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed on Wednesday that the administration proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent in its long-awaited tax plan.(Xinhua/Bao Dandan)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, April 29 (Xinhua) -- In his first 100 days, U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked a shift to a pro-business White House, although experts say the pace of key economic reforms is lagging.
In his first 100 days since taking office on Jan. 20, the businessman-turned politician has held an abundance of meetings with key business leaders from the tech sector to automakers to other major industries.
His message has been clear: This White House strongly believes in business.
"(Trump) has had one significant accomplishment on the economic front -- after eight years of an adversarial relationship between Washington and business, there's a vastly different climate," Gregory R. Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, told Xinhua.
"He is unabashedly pro-business, and I think the Goldman Sachs faction in the White House -- which is clearly ascendant -- has made a difference," Valliere said, referring to a number of Trump administration officials who have come from the major global investment bank.
"So the psychology in Washington for business is better, a plus," he said.
In the first 30 days of Trump's presidency, the U.S. stock market experienced a surge not seen in the first 30 days of a president since 1945.
U.S. small-business owners are also the most optimistic they have been since July 2007, according to the Wells Fargo Gallup Small Business Index, published last month.
The National Federation of Independent Business also found that small businesses are generally optimistic, while businesses are optimistic about the Trump administration. The group itself is generally happy about the president's first 100 days in office.
However, "there's a maddening lack of detail on economic policy," Valliere said, citing Trump's tax plan, which he rolled out earlier this week. The plan has been blasted for lack of specifics.
"And he clearly does not care much about the deficit, which eventually will concern the bond market," he said.
KEY REFORMS LAGGING
While many economists and business leaders expressed optimism over Trump's business-friendly philosophy, some criticize the New York tycoon over what they call the slow pace of reforms.
"President Trump's performance on the economic front in his first 100 days has been disappointing and I would give him a 'C' at best. While he might have boosted market confidence, he has achieved very little in the way of economic reform," Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Xinhua.
"The main thing that he did wrong was to prioritize health care reform rather than fundamental tax reform," Lachman said.
U.S. corporate tax is among the world's highest -- creating a drag on the economy, some argue -- and many Americans complain they pay too much in federal, state and local taxes.
"He failed to repeal Obamacare (Barack Obama's healthcare re-vamp), which has weakened his political position to get meaningful tax reform done in 2017," Lachman said.
Trump has also failed to fill many of the political appointments in his administration, which might be needed to get real reform done, and his "America First" policies might provoke retaliation from U.S. trade partners and increase the global trend towards protectionism, he said.
Still, Lachman said an important thing that Trump has done right was to back off from his campaign pledge to name China as a currency manipulator and to impose tariffs on that country.
Trump spent much of his presidential campaign railing against the North America Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and has vowed to pull out of the agreement, although his cabinet is deeply divided on the issue.
Experts said NAFTA, which Trump has repeatedly called a "bad deal," has been terrible for U.S. and Mexican workers. But at the same time, the agreement has intertwined supply chains to the point that withdrawal could create a huge mess.
Trump's first 100 days also saw him threaten to hit auto makers with heavy import taxes on cars built abroad, and has blasted U.S. car giant General Motors for assembling some of its vehicles in Mexico.
But some experts said a better strategy would be to offer tax incentives, rather than punishing companies.
"It was very disruptive because he has been busy backing away from many of the positions that he laid out in the campaign. That is probably good because most of the earlier ideas were unworkable," Barry Bosworth, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
"He has been moving close to the center with respect to trade policy in particular. But the situation with respect to many of these issues remains volatile as many advisers are still fighting with one another," Bosworth said.
TOO SOON TO TELL
Experts agree that the first 100 days is only the starting point for the Trump administration, and that it is simply too soon to tell whether Trump will succeed or fail in his plans to boost the U.S. economy.
"It's way too early to conclude that Trump will be a failure ... He has upside potential -- but whether he's capable of fundamental change at the age of 70 remains to be seen," Valliere said.
Washington is not like New York City, where Trump could cut deals and fire people, and he now realizes how difficult this job is in a politically dysfunctional and glacial climate, he said.
"He can fix his mistakes by listening to his advisers, especially the Goldman Sachs faction," Valliere said. "They know what the markets want."