Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


January 14, 2021


What happened? In the annual State of American Business speech this week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue outlined the path for a widespread economic recovery through a bold agenda of infrastructure investments, workforce reskilling, immigration reforms, and reinvigorating America’s global competitiveness. Additionally, he warned that excessive regulations and anti-competitive taxes would undermine the recovery.

To complement the speech, the U.S. Chamber is presenting three State of American Business Policy Power Hours highlighting common-sense policy solutions for strengthening the recovery on the international, national, and state/local levels.

In the first of three Policy Power Hours, Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber, led a discussion on U.S. global engagement and international trade. Brilliant emphasized that “restoring and revitalizing American leadership around the globe has never been more critical,” and highlighted the private sector’s important role as a partner for the incoming administration.

Fill me in:The U.S. Chamber’s international division is home to 20 bilateral business councils and a variety of business programs and initiatives. The division’s work is amplified by partnerships with 127 American Chambers of Commerce abroad with on-the-ground networks that support U.S. business globally.

Over the past year, the U.S. Chamber has played a critical role in keeping economies running and removing tariffs and other trade barriers that stand in the way of the pandemic response. Our international team has also supported bilateral trade talks with China, Brazil, Mexico/Canada, the UK, Kenya, and others.

Key Takeaways:

U.S. global leadership is the foundation for resilient and competitive American businesses.

  • “To support U.S. business, job creation and innovation, it’s imperative the incoming Biden administration offer a bold and robust international trade agenda centered around enhancing our competitiveness and protecting our national security." — Brilliant
  • “While American companies still set the global standard in many fields, increasing competition requires that government and business up our game. For starters, in the year ahead, we will work with the incoming administration to open up new markets, remove trade barriers, and eliminate tariffs that hurt our businesses.” — Brilliant

China represents both the biggest challenge and opportunity for the incoming Biden administration.

  • “Restoring and revitalizing American leadership around the globe has never been more critical. It means working more effectively with our allies and collaborating where possible, but also confronting China on opening its market further and ensuring fair competition.” — Brilliant
  • “I don’t think that…how the U.S. government deals with China will differ much, frankly, from the Trump administration. There’s consensus now—there has been for the past 10 years—that China is a genuine competitor and strategic rival in many cases…I think the tone will be different, perhaps you will not see inflammatory rhetoric roll off the tongues of either the president or his cabinet. And I think you’ll also see a willingness to cooperate with China on areas like climate change.” — Charles Freeman, senior vice president, Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Pursuit of additional market-opening trade agreements with the UK and in the Asia-Pacific and Africa will benefit American workers, farmers, and companies.

  • “We’ve seen very positive noises coming out of the incoming [Biden] team as well as out of Brussels about the desire to forge a positive Transatlantic agenda…First, they can eliminate some of these obvious irritants [tariffs, etc.]. Second, we can look at areas where the U.S. and Europe can partner together. First and foremost, would be pandemic response/recovery. In addition, we’re looking at things like climate: energy, environment and sustainability. We’re also thinking about reform of the multilateral trading system.” — Marjorie Chorlins, senior vice president, Europe, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • “There is an opportunity for much more ambition in the U.S.-India economic corridor…The President-elect certainly has very deep experience in engaging in this region.” — Nisha Biswal, senior vice president, South Asia and president, U.S.-India Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

To address critical global challenges, the U.S. must re-engage with our global allies and partners, both traditional and new, and address the nexus between trade and migration.

  • “The prism that the Trump administration looked at the Middle East was largely through Iran. In contrast, you will see the Biden administration have a more traditional approach to the region in terms of a broader range of issues. We welcome this close engagement with allies and the broader look at the region.” — Khush Choksy, senior vice president, Middle East, Turkey and Central Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • “I think we’re going to see immigration reform. We’re going to see the Biden administration focusing on addressing the migration crisis at its source. Addressing abject poverty, violence, criminality in the northern triangle [of Central America] with significant investments.” — Neil Herrington, senior vice president, Americas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

A strong business community is critical to supporting and sustaining democratic principles, both at home and abroad.

  • “We know that democracy-building will be front and center in this next administration. But you can’t have a strong democracy without a strong business community and that’s a world where the Chamber plays strong and hard on the [African] continent. It also puts our allies, and our competitors, on notice that our businesses are there for the long haul.” — Scott Eisner, senior vice president, Africa and president, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Our take:These aren’t abstract issues for American businesses. In his SOAB speech, Donohue emphasized that the future prosperity of America is tied to our global engagement.

He called for a number of urgent actions by policymakers including:

  • Revitalizing our alliances and reaffirming American leadership in multilateral organizations like the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization.
  • Lifting tariffs that have hurt American manufacturers and farmers and have been paid by American companies and customers while also addressing other countries’ unfair trade practices.
  • Catching up with other countries that are “inking new trade deals left and right.”

What’s next:Please join us Jan. 14 at 12 p.m. Eastern, for the second Policy Power Hour with a Spotlight on Washington and federal issues. You can also join us Jan. 15 at 12 p.m. Eastern, for the final Policy Power Hour on state issues with national impact.

Additional Resources

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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