January 12, 2023
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In this year’s State of American Business keynote address, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark called for a commitment to an “Agenda for American Strength” that affirms America’s position as a global power for good and unleashes the innovating, problem-solving power of business to address society’s greatest challenges.
“Business is ready—we’re not waiting. We’re putting forward a plan, because that’s what business does...that’s why business works,” Clark said. “Today, the Chamber is calling for an ‘Agenda for American Strength.’ An agenda that will not only help us navigate the present moment but steer our country to the brighter, stronger future that we expect—and the next generation deserves.”
Clark warned against polarization and gridlock, and outlined how government can fulfill its role—”no more and no less”—to support business, improve citizens’ lives, and strengthen our country’s future. At that same time, she cautioned that government’s regulatory overreach harms innovation and limits economic growth.
Here are some top takeaways from Clark’s keynote address. (Click here to read the full speech transcript.)
Business Can’t Be the Only Thing that Works
Today, there are too many instances where government just isn’t working. We’re in a cycle of partisanship and political swings that mean businesses don’t have the clarity or the certainty to plan past the next political cycle.
“The polarization, the gridlock, the overreach, and the inability to act smartly and strategically for our future is making it harder for all of us to do our jobs, fulfill our roles, and move this country forward,” Clark said. “Today, business demands better from our government…We need a government that rejects gridlock and chooses governing.”
Pursuing an “Agenda for American Strength"
In her speech, Clark said the Chamber is proposing an “Agenda for American Strength” to establish policies for long-term success for the country and the business community.
“[The Agenda for American Strength] affirms America’s position as a global power for good, supporting free people, free enterprise, and free markets the world over,” Clark said. “[It is] an agenda that lifts our middle class, and renews the American Dream and modernizes it for the next generation. [It is] an agenda we can be proud of, that we can rally around, and that our country can make progress on this year; in this Congress; at this vital moment in history.”
Bolstering America’s Strength by Building
Clark noted that in 2021, after 25 years of advocacy by the Chamber and its allies, Republicans and Democrats came together and made a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure.
She said that Congress must now reform the permitting process to make it feasible to unlock the potential of that historic effort.
“Right now, the process is broken, and it’s blocking progress,” Clark said. “Pass permitting reform and make it possible to build. Make it feasible for businesses to invest. Make it affordable to start and finish projects. There is bipartisan agreement. Now we need bipartisan action.”
Building a Stronger America through Its People
Clark said that we must solve the worker shortage today and build the workforce of the future, in part through sensible immigration reform. This includes strengthening our nation’s ability to manage the Southern border in a secure and orderly manner.
“Let’s start by fixing America’s outrageously broken immigration system,” Clark said. “Last year, with the strong support and input of the Chamber, there were meaningful bipartisan talks on proposals to secure the border, protect Dreamers, and increase the number of employment-based visas—crucial steps to get American businesses the talent they need, when they need it. This year, let’s get the deal done.”
Creating a Prosperous Future with American Energy Sources
Clark said that “the most important thing” Washington can do this year is sending long-term signals to energy producers to give them the confidence and certainty they need to invest here in the U.S.
“Let’s accelerate permitting for new exploration and production, quickly finalize a 5-year program for offshore leasing, and make it easier to build energy infrastructure,” Clark said. “Permitting reform is needed to build anything, including the historic investments in clean energy projects authorized by Congress.”
Enhancing America’s Role on the Global Stage
Clark said that our nation’s future depends on our continued, bold engagement in the world and that one of the best ways to enhance that engagement is to expand trade with our global partners.
“Today we have trade deals with 20 countries, and it has been 10 years since we’ve added a single new partner to that list. Meanwhile, other countries have inked 100 new trade deals without us…If you are standing still, you are falling behind,” Clark said. “When we trade and invest with other countries, we are not only supporting jobs and creating opportunities in the U.S., we are deepening strategic partnerships and advancing free enterprise both here and abroad.”
Clark added that the U.S. should resume negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, support Africa’s continental free trade area, and aim higher on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Boosting the Rule of Law at Home
Finally, Clark said that our nation’s future prosperity depends on our ability to protect and preserve the rule of law—right here at home.
“So often we think of the ‘rule of law’ as a challenge somewhere else,” Clark said. “But what about the ways our legal system is being hijacked by the trial lawyers to extort big payouts from business? What about the explosive growth in third-party litigation funding that is fueling lawsuit abuse? These are not features of a fair or effective civil justice system, and the Chamber will be pushing our leaders to address them this year.”
Role of Government Should Be Limited
The speech also highlighted what the government shouldn’t do—and overregulation is at the top of that list. In Washington, unprecedented regulatory overreach has accelerated over the past two years, and Clark reminded the audience that the Chamber has responded forcefully.
“It is not the role of government to direct the behavior of business, redistribute power in our economy, or undermine the competition that fuels free enterprise,” Clark said. “And that’s why the Chamber sued the FTC, the SEC, and the CFPB last year. And we won’t hesitate to do it again if that’s what’s needed to protect business interests, preserve innovation and competition, and position our economy for growth.”
- Learn about how the U.S. Chamber is helping pursue new trade and investment agreements.
- Find out how Congress can improve the permitting process for new energy infrastructure.
- Learn about how lack of immigration reform is contributing to America’s labor shortage.
- Read more about the U.S. Chamber's commitment to rule of law at home and abroad.
From the Series