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Holcomb stresses need for international trade ties at economic summit

Governor issues veiled warning about trade protectionism

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday gave a veiled warning against rising opposition to free trade at home and abroad.

The Republican governor’s remarks came on the first day of the Indiana Global Economic Summit at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. The summit brought together business and political leaders from roughly 30 countries, including Hiroshi Ono, president and CEO of Nippon Steel North America, and Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States.

In a speech kicking off the summit Thursday morning, Holcomb stressed the need to preserve international business ties in an increasingly polarized world.

“At a time throughout the United States and, indeed, throughout the wider world, when global investment and trade are in question and when isolationism and protectionism are on the table, Indiana demonstrates how vitally important these resource flows can be,” he said. “In other words, we call them our relationships.”

Holcomb’s remarks come at a time when both major political parties have turned away from the free trade policies they embraced for roughly the past four decades. Tariffs became a hallmark of former President Donald Trump’s trade policy. President Joe Biden has largely left those tariffs in place and, last week, announced a new round of tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, solar cells and advanced batteries.

When News 8 asked the governor about his remarks afterward, Holcomb said he wasn’t criticizing any one particular trade policy but was noting overall trends playing out in a year when numerous countries are holding leadership elections. Voting in India’s general election is ongoing through June 1. Mexico has a presidential election scheduled for June 2. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has just called a snap election for July 4. Here at home, Biden and Trump are headed for a rematch in November, an election in which Indiana voters also will choose Holcomb’s successor.

Economic development announcements played out against the backdrop of the conference. Immediately following his opening address, Holcomb announced Indiana is partnering with the venture capital firm Elevate Ventures to create a $100 million venture capital fund to help Indiana startups in need of funding. He said this will help ensure startups can find needed support within the state. The money will come from private investments.

On Thursday afternoon, the governor announced Elanco and Purdue University will build a shared-use facility on 3 acres set aside for Elanco’s future global headquarters along the White River. The facility will include research labs, classrooms and business incubator space. It will anchor a planned OneHealth Innovation District centered on the company’s headquarters. Purdue University President Mung Chiang says the goal is to create an animal health campus similar to what Discovery Park in West Lafayette has done for the aerospace industry. He said Purdue leaders want Purdue Indianapolis to be more than a satellite campus when its separation from IUPUI becomes official on July 1.

Holcomb said the Elanco announcement plays into his goals for the economic summit and international trade more broadly. He said the district will bring Indianapolis global attention as an epicenter for health research.

“The whole summit is about innovation across different sectors, and for a state like Indiana to be aligning these critically important pieces of the puzzle, it means a lot for Hoosiers who are going to have opportunities to be a part of life-changing, life-saving discoveries and the careers that come with them” he said.