CalChamber Hosts Virtual Event for International Representatives with Governor Newsom and Lt. Governor Kounalakis

On December 15, the California Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom event for the California Consular Corps and Foreign Economic Partners with special guests Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. The 120 attendees on the call represented nearly 60 countries, making up some of California’s top trading partners.

CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg began the event by welcoming the Consular Corps and economic partners, including the two Deans of the Consular Corps also on the call: Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev, Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps; and Consul General of the Philippines Henry Bensurto Jr., the outgoing Dean of the San Francisco Consular Corps.

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis then welcomed the group and reviewed the state’s ongoing international priorities in immigration, trade and climate. She commented that the pandemic has led to more virtual international engagements, with participants focused on protecting “the health of our peoples and the resilience of our economies.”

She thanked the diplomatic corps for their partnership in the past few months, including sharing information about the coronavirus, helping repatriate citizens stranded abroad and coordinating efforts to keep supply chains open.

Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis went on to introduce Governor Newsom.

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis
Governor Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom opened with observations about the sudden change between the state of the California economy at the start of the year, exemplified by the budget surplus, to the sudden shift into a projected budget shortfall and the strains brought on by the coronavirus, pandemic-induced recession, and wildfires from multiple lighting strikes, to name a few headwinds California has encountered since the spring.

In what the Governor described as “a remarkable monument to mark the resilience that is California,” the upcoming budget will show a surplus. He closed with the comment that all the state has gone through this year inspires “a renewed sense of commitment and recognition of our interdependence…We’re all in this together.”

The Governor went on to participate in a question-and-answer session with the Lieutenant Governor moderated by Zaremberg with pre-collected questions from the Consular Corps.

Topics covered during the discussion largely centered around the pandemic, including the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and questions about how the pandemic has affected international trade in California, as well as California’s plan to facilitate economic recovery.

The Governor’s September executive order on zero-emission vehicles and California’s plans for the upcoming year on combating climate change were of interest as well. There was also some curiosity amongst the participants about the next steps in implementing California’s Privacy Rights Act, approved by voters in November, and what it means in terms of data protection and privacy going forward, as well as how it compares with privacy regulations in Europe.

There also was concern about the international students within the University of California and California State University systems and what plans there are to assist them during the ongoing pandemic.

Governor Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis wrapped up the meeting wishing all a happy holidays with the hope that we may all get together to share common international interests and priorities again in the future.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

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Susanne T. Stirling, senior vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California.