Business Roundtable picks corporate honchos for panels

The Business Roundtable announced Monday that a trio of corporate heavyweights would chair policy committees for the group.

Dave Cote of Honeywell will lead the group’s new Energy and Environment Committee, while Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil will be at the helm of the Education and the Workforce Committee.

The Roundtable, an association of leading corporate chief executives, also said Monday that Doug Oberhelman of Caterpillar will head up the International Engagement Committee.

The announcements come as unemployment in the country remains around 9 percent, and as the business community and the White House continue to have some differences of opinions on how to spark the sluggish economy. 

For instance, the Roundtable praised the Obama administration’s announcement in August that it would streamline government regulations, but has also pushed for further reforms. And the group questioned President Obama’s September plan to pay for his jobs package and reduce deficits in part by raising taxes on high earners. Still, business groups and the administration are on the same page when it comes to passing the pending trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which are expected to get congressional action this week. 

In a release, Oberhelman signaled that, beyond assuring that those pacts gain congressional approval, he and his committee will work to gain more access for American goods in other markets. 

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, expanding market access for American companies and workers to sell products and services to these customers is essential to U.S. job creation and economic growth,” Jim McNerney of Boeing, the Business Roundtable’s chairman, said in his own statement.

Tillerson, meanwhile, comes to the Roundtable’s newly shaped education committee as the energy sector continues to fight Democratic attempts to rein in tax preferences for the oil-and-gas industry. The Roundtable is part of a coalition pushing to sharply increase the number of Americans who earn bachelor’s degrees in science and math.

Cote, who served on the president’s fiscal commission, said in a Monday statement that he believed a balanced approach to energy and the environment could lead both to more jobs and more environmental protection.

The Roundtable also announced Monday that Ursula Burns of Xerox, the first black woman to head a major U.S. corporation, was joining its executive committee. The group has several other CEO-led committees, looking into areas like regulation and tax policy.