January 09, 2020


Today U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue cautioned that the United States must continue to engage on the world stage or risk being left behind in his annual State of American Business Address.

“Engaging with the world is our best strategy for strong national security and lasting prosperity,” said Donohue. “Embracing free trade doesn’t mean ignoring unfair practices aimed at us. It means leading the way in setting the rules and enforcing them, based on the simple propositions that more trade is better than less trade, more customers are better than fewer customers, and expanding markets globally will benefit everyone,” he continued.

Donohue reminded the audience that 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States and stressed the importance of opening up more markets to American-made goods and services.

He lauded House passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and raised the need to pursue similar high-standard trade agreements with the UK and EU, Japan, Brazil, and emerging markets in Africa as well as the importance of U.S. engagement in the booming Asia-Pacific.

Donohue also stressed how American businesses and consumer bear the cost of tariffs. To illustrate his point, Donohue mentioned Maryland-based small business owner Seth Weiner, whose company has had to adapt operations to withstand the impact of tariffs.

“Trade tensions with China have forced businesses like Seth’s to adapt their business strategies and modify supply chains,” said Donohue. “They must be quick, nimble, and creative to keep costs down, products flowing, and people employed.”

Ahead of next week's signing of a Phase I trade deal with China that would begin to reduce tariffs, Donohue acknowledged that both countries deserve credit for reaching an agreement while noting that substantial work remains.

“There’s still a long way to go. Phase II must address Chinese trade and industrial policies that put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage. It is in both nations’ interests to resolve those issues and restore our commercial relationship,” said Donohue.

Donohue went on to say that staying engaged in the world also means remaining committed to multilateral organizations and trading arrangements like the World Trade Organization.

“If the World Trade Organization didn’t exist, we’d have to create it. Its rules protect American business from unfair treatment and protectionism,” remarked Donohue. “Safeguarding this institution and its dispute settlement system should be an urgent international priority. Let’s not shutter the WTO Appellate Body. Such drastic action doesn’t serve America’s interests.”

Concluding his remarks about America’s leadership in the world, Donohue said, “America must be involved, not isolated. We must set the pace, in an open and collaborative manner, for global engagement not just in trade, but also finance, technology, intellectual property, investment, environment, and the rule of law.”

Today’s event marked the 21st delivery of the annual address by Donohue, who has led the U.S. Chamber since 1997. The State of American Business event is the premiere annual event on the debates, decisions, and disruptions facing the American business community across the U.S. and around the world. The program includes the State of American Business address by CEO Thomas J. Donohue, and new this year, the speech will be followed by a Faces of Business fireside chat moderated by Chamber President Suzanne Clark and featuring Revolution Chairman and CEO Steve Case, and a panel of American entrepreneurs.

The State of American Business draws top Washington influencers, policymakers, national media, and digital audiences worldwide. Demonstrating the depth and breadth of the Chamber’s advocacy across the U.S. and world, this year the event will feature watch parties and live interactions with chambers of commerce in seven countries and five states.

Donohue’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available online here. To watch the 2020 State of American Business address, please visit the event page.