Trump's GDP target could be attainable with the right policies, analyst Pethokoukis says

A new chapter in economic history
A new chapter in economic history

President Donald Trump has set what many are calling an "aggressive" GDP growth target, but it could be plausible with the right policies, one analyst tells CNBC.

"I don't think there is anything wrong to set a target that the U.S. will grow 3 to 3.5 percent, if you have the policies" to back it up, Jim Pethokoukis, an economic policy analyst, told CNBC on Tuesday.

But it won't be easy, Pethokoukis made clear, and it will take "a lot of policies."

The economy won't experience growth simply because of a tax cut or by repealing Obamacare, Pethokoukis, who is also a columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute, said during an interview on CNBC's "Power Lunch." Instead, Pethokoukis would like to see Trump's administration focus on "sustainable, long-term growth." Starting a dialogue on higher education, for example, instead of on cutting trade or restricting immigrants from entering the U.S.

That being said, Trump has many skeptics to prove wrong, should Pethokoukis stand correct — that 3 to 3.5 percent economic growth is attainable, after all.

Economists at the New York Federal Reserve, for example, estimate GDP growth of 2.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, based on their "Nowcast" that combines other recently reported economic data.

And forecasters surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics said they expect U.S. GDP to grow by merely 2.2 percent for all of 2017.

"The fact is, the economy is already operating at near potential," Sebastian Mallaby, who serves on the Council of Foreign Relations, chimed in during the "Power Lunch" interview. Mallaby is concerned about Trump's GDP "talk."

"This idea that you can boost [GDP growth] into a nirvana stratosphere … it's not gonna happen," Mallaby said. "If we think it's gonna happen, we'll make policy errors."

Nonetheless, Pethokoukis remains confident the U.S economy could see "fast growth" and "inclusive growth" over the next decade or two, if Trump puts more of the right policies in place.

— CNBC's John W. Schoen contributed to this report.

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