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Politics

Trump's first 100 days a crucible for 'America first'

Can new president meet ambitious targets for growth and taxes?

TAKESHI KAWANAMI, Nikkei staff writer | North America

WASHINGTON -- The first 100 days under U.S. President Donald Trump will be a key test of an "America first" stance that has fueled hopes of tax cuts, infrastructure investment and regulatory easing but also concerns over excessive protectionism that could threaten the global economy.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump's pick for Treasury secretary, stressed Thursday in his Senate confirmation hearing that the U.S. should be able to achieve sustained growth of 3-4% in gross domestic product.

While the economy has expanded continuously for more than seven years, its average growth of 2% has amounted to the slowest recovery since World War II. Frustration bubbled among voters as manufacturers cut jobs and the income gap widened.

Trump has set an ambitious growth target of 4%. Slashing the corporate tax rate from a high 35% to just 15% is a key feature of his plans for the first 100 days.

He has promised "the biggest tax revolution since the Reagan tax reform" of the 1980s. In Congress, which holds the ultimate authority over tax matters, the Republican majority is debating lowering the corporate tax to 20%. The odds are good for the first overhaul to the system in three decades.

Trump's tax plan would lift output by 1.7% in 2017 and 1.1% the following year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The actual cuts may end up smaller than promised, given concerns in Congress over feeding budget deficits. But combined with the promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade, they are still expected to provide some boost to economic growth.

Financial markets have reacted positively to Trump's plans, including those for relaxing regulations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has approached the 20,000 mark for the first time on record. But concern frequently overshadowed hope as the inauguration neared.

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