March 13, 2023
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
CEO, Christoff & Co
From advances in AI technology to the Silicon Valley Bank crash, current events continue to transform the U.S. business climate and economy. In response to these rapid shifts, regulators in Washington, D.C. are also moving at warp speed — and entities like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are working to ensure emerging government policy benefits American businesses of all sizes.
At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, Niki Christoff of Christoff & Co. sat down with Suzanne Clark, President & CEO at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing U.S. startups today. Read on for Clark’s insights on new D.C. regulations on the innovation economy, how the Chamber aims to help, and why business leaders should use their platforms responsibly.
The U.S. Chamber Aims to Be a ‘Good Partner to Government’ in the Interest of American Business
Clark first clarified two common misconceptions about the Chamber of Commerce: it is not part of the federal government, nor is it an anti-government entity. Rather, the Chamber aims to “be a good partner to government” by championing the voices of American businesses, according to Clark.
“You can’t be anti-government; it’s like being anti-air … [and] there are really important roles [the government plays] for laws and regulations,” Clark explained. “One of the fears we have at the U.S. Chamber, however, is that when government tries to do too much, it stops being good at the things that only [it] can do.”
In her work at the Chamber, Clark communicates with businesses of all sizes, industries, and locations. She mentioned hearing one consistent theme throughout: a desire for clarity.
“I hear a lot of, ‘I’m okay, but I’m worried about the macroeconomy, and I’m worried about the government [doing] the right thing,’” Clark said. “A lot of what we hear from businesses is, ‘I just want certainty … Just tell me what the rules are, [and] I’ll make my plan and go.’”
Good Government Regulation Is More Vital Than Ever
Particularly on the heels of advancements in technology and AI, clear and consistent regulation is more vital than ever. In this vein, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released its Artificial Intelligence Commission Report, based on extensive research over the course of a year. According to the Commission, the report “highlights the promise of AI while advocating for a risk-based, regulatory framework.”
Clark also affirmed the Chamber’s ongoing commitment to not only “fight bad regulation,” but develop “good regulation” that fosters the growth of American business.
“A lot of these [regulatory] agencies [have] good and real work to do, protecting companies, protecting families,” she said. “But when they get out of bounds, when they grow too big, when the tax is too high on innovation and competition — then we will step in, and we will sue, and we will likely win.”
Industry Leaders Play a Key Role in Shaping the Business and Economic Climate
The government and the Chamber of Commerce are far from the only entities shaping the current business and economic climate. Industry leaders with a large platform and sphere of influence can also dictate the broader business and economic climate.
Take, for example, the Silicon Valley Bank collapse of March 10, 2023 — an incident that has been described as a Twitter-fueled bank run.
“[The FDIC is] doing the right thing and taking care of depositors,” said Clark regarding the U.S. government’s decision to complete the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank.
“The thing that we should really study … is what the role of social media was in this,” she added. “As we think about our own role in public messaging and public confidence, in being holders of public trust, thinking about what we say in public is important.”
According to Clark, this issue goes back to the need for a “really good, smart, nuanced government.”
"People in the extremes of both parties [want] to take down tech,” she explained. “They talk about tech as if it’s monolithic … as opposed to narrowing down what it is they’re upset about, and what should be done about it.”