Business anticipates a boost from Bush win

They look for more tax relief, looser regulations, and an increase in trade.

As Sen. John Kerry ran against President Bush he railed against "outsourcing" by companies. So, it's not surprising that Jay Whitehead, the publisher of magazines on the issue, was anxiously waiting to see if President Bush won reelection.

If he did, he would launch two new outsourcing magazines - one on financial accounting and another on healthcare. Now those publications have a green light. "We wanted to make sure we had a friendly environment," says Mr. Whitehead, who expects the business climate over the next four years to be "extremely favorable."

Whitehead probably isn't alone in his sigh of relief. Other business owners worked hard to get the president reelected, seeing Mr. Bush as a friend, a fellow chief executive officer, sympathetic to their concerns about short-circuiting tougher environmental legislation and trying to rein in healthcare and legal costs. They are eager to see the president continue to tinker with the tax code. They hope to mount another push to get drilling rigs in the Arctic. And with the final tally complete, they can get back to making money - with little prospect it will be taxed at the rate Senator Kerry wanted to use.

"We're very pleased," says Mike Baroody, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, which registered 800,000 new voters through a political action committee.

Wall Street, which watched a 101 point rally in the Dow on Wednesday, is already highlighting possible winners, including such sectors as telecommunications (relaxed rules on media conglomeration), utilities, and coal mining (looser environmental regulations). Drug companies may see their patents extended and receive protection from cheaper imports. Kerry's proposal to hike the minimum wage may be dead, which will help low-end retailers. "This administration will be more pro-business than Kerry," says Jose Rasco, an economist at Merrill Lynch & Co.

The business community, however, was not monolithic in its support of Bush. "There were elements of the first-term performance that a lot of people were not happy with such as the steel tariffs," says Thomas Duesterberg, the president of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.

Yet from a business standpoint, Mr. Duesterberg says Kerry blundered when he picked Sen. John Edwards, a trial lawyer, to be his running mate. "After that they could not convince manufacturers to come on board," he says. Looking ahead, business expects a second Bush administration to make changes in the tax code. On Wednesday, for example, NAM put together a business coalition that will lobby for more changes, including lowering the corporate tax rate, simplifying the rules, and eliminating estate taxes.

Business would also like the administration to revisit the energy bill. Duesterberg says that over the past several years the chemical industry has lost 100,000 jobs and is moving offshore where energy is less expensive and regulations are more benign. "I think manufacturers will look for more ways to encourage supply, whether it's from the North Slope of Alaska or a pipeline from Alaska or buying more LNG from abroad," he says.

Finally, business expects to see the administration seeking more trade agreements, possibly with Korea and maybe some broad East Asian initiative. The Central American Free Trade Agreement is awaiting congressional approval and Bush's reelection will help, says Duesterberg. That prospect is causing excitement in countries like Nicaragua. "It will allow US companies to be more competitive in the world market because Nicaragua's costs are very similar to China's," says Bernardo Callejas, an adviser who tries to attract businesses to Nicaragua.

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