This Week’s MPN Podcast: ‘The Menu,’ ‘Glass Onion’ Reviews; Streaming to Get More Expensive; CES Debuts New VR Headsets; Netflix Cancellations


On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley dissect several articles from the industry that have emerged in the past week, as well as offer up a couple of quick reviews for new movies they’ve caught on streaming. First up, Charlie has finally watched The Menu which is now streaming on HBO Max. It’s a great satirical take on the pretentiousness surrounding high-end luxury dining and well worth a watch. Charles recaps the first Knives Out and shares his thoughts on its recent Netflix-exclusive sequel Glass Onion.

From the latest salvo in the streaming wars, Warner Bros. Discovery CFO was quoted as saying the prices of streaming platforms are “… overall priced too low,” which is troubling considering the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia (with HBO) have led to many shows and movies being written off and removed from the streaming lineup. One prominent casualty was Batgirl, a completed $90 million film that will now never be released. This, coupled with Netflix’s penchant for canceling shows after only a season or two, implies that not long from now streaming subscribers will be paying more for less content. Speaking of Netflix, Charlie and Charles have a back-and-forth discussion about how Netflix may be setting itself up for failure by consistently canceling its original programming. The cancellation of “1899” last week (after a single season) led to a lot of negative feedback online, and more recently the cancellation of the animated comedy “Inside Job” has Charlie starting to turn more and more bearish on the service. It appears that Netflix subscribers are conditioned to wait until a show completes its entire run before becoming invested in it, which could lead to a negative feedback loop of initial low viewing numbers, leading to more cancellations, leading to even lower viewing numbers.

The last piece of newsworthy content from the industry was CES and a metaverse-oriented showcase that had taken center stage during the convention. Both hosts own VR headsets and spend some time commenting on the VR-specific tech announced at CES. Most things, like a headset containing cartridges that allow the user to smell certain odors during use, come off as obviously dead on arrival while others, such as a new headset from HTC to compete with the Meta Quest 2, are intriguing. The hosts recommend buying a VR device regardless, because watching movies on a giant virtual screen is a great experience.

Technicolor Showcases Advanced HDR Tech at CES

Executives representing Advanced HDR by Technicolor — a collaboration between Philips, InterDigital and Technicolor — showcased their new technology during CES. Advanced HDR by Technicolor automates SDR to HDR and HDR to SDR content conversion, providing both signals in a single stream for live TV and post-production operations.

The automated conversion process of Advanced HDR by Technicolor is especially beneficial for producing live outdoor sports programming and events, according to Technicolor. Solutions from Advanced HDR by Technicolor enable operators to dynamically manage lighting conditions throughout the day without human intervention, delivering optimal color and image quality, the company reported.

“The broadcast and streaming industries are in the process of making the transition from SDR to HDR,” Rick Dumont, senior director of business development of HDR video for Philips, said in a statement. “The single-stream solution from Advanced HDR by Technicolor — included in the ATSC 3.0 standard — plays a critical role in delivering both video formats in a cost-efficient and technically effective manner.”

During the show, Hisense, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Advanced HDR By Technicolor demonstrated the technology. Sinclair Broadcast Group delivered HDR content broadcast over the air to Hisense TVs that have integrated Advanced HDR by Technicolor solutions.

Today, 36 NextGen Broadcast (ATSC 3.0) stations owned by Sinclair transmit over-the-air content in HDR using Advanced HDR by Technicolor solutions.

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“The integration of Advanced HDR by Technicolor into Hisense TVs — a brand that is rapidly growing in the United States — means more viewers will be able to enjoy vibrant HDR content offered by leading broadcasters, such as Sinclair,” Tony Bozzini, head of business development for Advanced HDR by Technicolor at Philips, said in a statement.

“Hisense is committed to providing the best possible picture quality to consumers. With leading broadcasters, like Sinclair, offering a growing array of HDR content, especially live sports, Hisense ensures those in service areas of Sinclair’s increasing number of deployed NextGen Broadcast stations can access and enjoy the full visual benefits offered by the latest technological innovations,” David Gold, president of Hisense USA, said in a statement.

“For broadcasters who put the customer experience at the top of the list, delivering the best visual image is essential. This is especially true when it comes to broadcasting live sporting events. That is why Sinclair Broadcast Group is ensuring that stations implementing ATSC 3.0 do so with Advanced HDR by Technicolor,” Mark Aitken, SVP of technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group and president of ONE Media 3.0, said in a statement.

CES 2023 Ends With Higher-Than-Expected Attendance of 115,000

LAS VEGAS — CES 2023 ended Jan. 8 with a total attendee count of more than 115,000, exceeding even the most optimistic projections of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the annual technology show.

In the weeks leading up to the show, which ran from Jan. 5-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the CTA had expressed hope that attendance would reach 100,000, more than twice the 45,000 who turned out for last year’s show, which was scaled back by a day amid a rash of exhibitor pullouts due to a winter COVID-19 surge.

This year’s CES also had more than 3,200 exhibitors, about 1,000 more than last year.

“CES 2023 was the great reconnection and rocked by every measure — from attendance to the keynote stage to press conferences and product debuts on the exhibit floor — showing the entire world that in-person events are back!” a jubilant Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “The innovation unveiled [at the show] will drive economic growth and change in meaningful ways to improve our lives and create a better future for the next generation.”

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Shapiro notes that the show’s footprint was 70% bigger than CES 2022, with nearly 2.2 million net square feet of exhibit space.

Of the estimated 115,000 attendees, more than 40,000 came from outside the United States, representing more than 140 different countries.

This year also marked the first time that CES had a theme: Human Security for All. CES partnered with the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security and the World Academy of Art and Science on the Human Security for All (HS4A) global campaign to foster food security, access to health care, personal income, environmental protection, personal safety, community security and political freedom.

Also for the first time, CES 2023 had a dedicated Metaverse area on the show floor, highlighting cutting-edge sensory technology building immersive, interactive digital worlds. A Web3 Studio, produced by CoinDesk, was the focal point of the Web3, Metaverse and Blockchain area at CES.

And while automotive and mobility, digital health and sustainability were all dominant show trends, the show’s legacy consumer electronics roared back in a big way, with LG Electronics bringing back its signature video monitor “wave” and, along with other big CE manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung, TCL, Hisense and Panasonic, displaying impressive lineups of new televisions, many of them aimed at video gamers.

Even turntables were back, led by Japan’s Audio-Technica Corp., whose turntables played a key role in the vinyl resurgence that began several years ago. Even Panasonic displayed a new Technics turntable and CD player.

One of the top attractions on the CES 2023 show floor was a replica of the cabin from the new Universal Pictures M. Night Shyamalan movie Knock at the Cabin (debuting theatrically Feb. 3), which Canon USA, a digital imaging solutions provider, used as the setting for an immersive movie experience in which visitors could try out various new technologies aimed at dissolving the limits between real and virtual worlds.

Long Lines, Many Handshakes and Few Masks: It’s Business as Usual at CES 2023

LAS VEGAS — Long lines, lots of handshakes and hardly any masks: It’s pretty much business as usual at CES 2023, which officially opened Jan. 5 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The show floor was packed throughout the day, and the social distancing signs and accommodations that were prevalent at last year’s show were conspicuously absent.

LG was back with its flowing video wall showing everything from tigers to whales, from oceans to spectacular sunsets.

See more photos from CES 2023 here

Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and TCL also had enormous booths, showcasing everything from the latest TVs to new technologies in the worlds of gaming, health tech and smart everything. One of the centerpieces of the LG booth was “the world’s first wireless OLED TV,” while Sony trumpeted its video game properties and displayed a wealth of new PlayStation accessories, from wireless controllers to a new VR system.

A Technics CD player and turntable on display at the Panasonic booth at CES 2023. (Media Play News staff photo)

Panasonic, in a twist, had a special display for new Technics turntables and CD players, both throwbacks to the 1980s when the Las Vegas confab was known as the Winter CES, as opposed to the Summer CES in Chicago.

Lines snaked through the show floor. Top draws were the immersive Knock at the Cabin (Universal Pictures) movie experience at the Canon booth, where various new technologies were demonstrated in the context of M. Night Shymalan’s latest movie; a parade of football greats, including Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, signing autographs and posing for photos at the TCL booth; and free skateboards being handed out by Element Case, a leader in premium phone cases and accessories. TCL was recently named an official partner of the NFL, which affords the Chinese electronics company access to the league’s massive fan base for its line of big (up to 98-inch) TV screens.

Football great Barry Sanders signs an autograph for a fan at the TCL booth on Jan. 5, 2023, opening day of CES 2023. (Media Play News staff photo)

Commitments to sustainability were everywhere, including a huge wall at the LG booth outlining the company’s carbon-neutral objectives and a flashing screen in the Panasonic booth promoting green power generation and net zero C20 factories with which the company hopes to create “a world that’s greener, healthier and more equitable.”

Even Targus, known for its cases, promoted laptop bags and backpacks made from recycled plastic water bottles. The bottles are shredded for pellets, which are then converted and spun into yarn, which in turn is then threaded and died into fabric.

In tandem with the show floor opening, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the annual CES, released its second International Innovation Scorecard, an assessment of policies and practices around the world that fuel tech innovation or stand in the way of progress.

A record 24 countries earned the highest ranking of “Innovation Champion” — Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States — as well as the European Union (EU).

“The 2023 Scorecard captures a surge in entrepreneurship since the last release in 2019, as innovators around the world harnessed advanced technologies to develop vaccines with incredible speed, deliver medical care across borders, create online tools for commerce and education, and navigate complex supply chain challenges,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA. “This year’s Innovation Champions embrace policies that unleash innovation and empower diverse communities to bring new technologies to life and to market, improving the lives of millions.”

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The Scorecard measures 40 indicators across 17 categories, including tax friendliness, environmental quality, trade policy, broadband access, and cybersecurity. The 2023 edition expanded to include nine additional countries, assessing a total of 70 nations spanning the globe, including all members of the EU and G20.

Panasonic Announces Flagship OLED TV

Panasonic has announced its flagship OLED TV for 2023, the MZ2000, available in 55-, 65- and 77-inch sizes.

Panasonic’s latest flagship model comes with a state-of-the-art new panel and remarkable heat management system, alongside a host of proprietary picture processing, gaming and audio improvements, according to a press release.

The MZ2000 introduces a completely new era in the possibilities of OLED expression and brightness, according to the press release.

The MZ2000 uses Panasonic’s new custom module, called the “Master OLED Ultimate,” which uses a state-of-the-art panel with Micro Lens Array, combined with a new multi-layer heat management configuration developed by Panasonic engineers. The result is a major step-up in brightness, with peak brightness increases of approximately 150%, and average brightness also improved compared to last year’s models, according to the company. The combination of the new module with Panasonic’s HCX Pro AI Processor ensures every detail is clear, with realistic highlights and stunning color accuracy, the press release states.

As with previous models, the MZ2000 supports a range of HDR formats, including Dolby Vision IQ2, HDR10+ Adaptive, and HLG Photo, the still image format that brings still photography into the HDR world.

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The new MZ2000 OLED employs the color-tuning skills of Stefan Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld, founder and CEO of Company 3 is a trusted collaborator of some of the world’s best filmmakers and is among a handful of leading artists who have championed the power of color grading to tell stories and communicate emotion, according to the press release. Described by NPR as the “da Vinci of the movies,” Sonnenfeld has applied his skills as a colorist to many of the most acclaimed and popular features of the past decade: Top Gun: Maverick, A Star Is Born, Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, 300 and many more. Like many other leading colorists, he uses Panasonic OLED screens as large-format client reference monitors in his daily workflow, according to Panasonic.

In addition, the MZ2000 features an improved Filmmaker Mode that ensures that viewers can enjoy their content exactly as the artist intended, according to Panasonic. Ambient color temperature sensing has been upgraded for Filmmaker Mode, ensuring accurate picture reproduction in any lighting conditions; for example, by lowering the temperature in response to warmly lit conditions, or brightening the dark tones in extremely light environments.

As well as optimizing the picture based on its surroundings, the MZ2000 also improves the streaming experience for most sources, according to the company. Important for streamed content that can vary from HD and beyond, the Streaming 4K Remaster algorithm identifies the resolution and analyses textures by area to deliver more detailed, cleaner images through adaptive advanced processing. The result is crisper and more natural-looking streamed content.

With support for HDMI 2.1 key features, full 4K resolution, up to 120Hz refresh rate, ultra-low latency, and input lag, VRR, and AMD Freesync Premium, the MZ2000 is also “the perfect solution for gamers,” according to Panasonic. The MZ2000 is also Nvidia G-Sync Compatible. When connected to a system using a Nvidia RTX graphics card3, it automatically optimises input lag and VRR settings for tear- and stutter-free gaming sessions, on a TV validated and now recognized by Nvidia. The new True Game Mode brings all the color accuracy features available for movies into the world of gaming, while improved HDR Tone Mapping delivers source-oriented expression from the gaming device, according to Panasonic. In addition, True Game Mode is calibratable and shows the Calman Calibrated logo after adjustment with Portrait Displays Inc.’s industry-standard color calibration software. Meanwhile, Dolby Vision2 Gaming unlocks the most lifelike visuals each game has to offer.

The model also features newly added gaming sound modes. Available to set up in the MZ2000’s upgraded Game Control Board, RPG (Role-Playing Game) Sound Mode is designed to make users feel as though they are submerged inside the game’s virtual world, while FPS (First-Person Shooter) Mode provides accurate audio location, allowing users to hear subtle sounds such as footsteps for a tactical advantage.

For 2023, the Bass Booster algorithm has been upgraded. When selected from the menu, it delivers a deep, fast responding bass, meaning that customers can enjoy truly dynamic sound through Panasonic’s 360° Soundscape all-in-one TV audio package. Tuned by Technics, the multiple built-in upward-firing, side-firing, and front-firing speaker units produce a fully immersive spatial soundstage with Dolby Atmos, according to Panasonic.

Running the length of the TV behind the front speaker grille, the array speakers allow for a wider, more precise soundstage, as well as the ability to adjust the relative audio volume in different parts of the room.

The MZ2000 comes with three Sound Focus modes: Pinpoint Mode, which allows the sound to be directed to one specific point; Area Mode, which lets you shift the sound to a group of people in a specific area of the room; and Spot Mode, which boosts the volume in one spot while allowing other to still hear the sound.

Directional sound, for instance, allows parents with young children sleeping behind a wall on one side of the room to direct the sound away from them and allows consumers to boost the volume for a viewer who is hard of hearing.

The MZ2000 features the latest iteration of Panasonic’s smart TV OS, my Home Screen 8.0, which supports all major video streaming services and comes with improvements to the Bass Booster function, accessibility features, and the myScenery function. Panasonic has worked with the German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted to further improve our accessibility options. In the initial set up, the MZ2000 offers different setting options for both hearing and visually impaired users, which then can be guided through the initial setup by Voice Guidance to simplify the first-time installation of the Panasonic TV. In addition, it provides a function for visually impaired users to learn the buttons by audible feedback.

The MZ2000’s myScenery feature allows viewers to choose a selection of restful images and videos and has new nature sounds, which have been collected from all over the world by the Joy Foundation and newly encoded in Dolby Atmos format.

CES 2023 Opens Today in Las Vegas Amid Speculation on How Big the Show Will Be

LAS VEGAS — CES 2023 opens today (Jan. 5) at the Las Vegas Convention Center amid much speculation as to what final attendance figures will be, given the fact that this is the first show in three years to be relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 event was held virtually, and last year’s CES came amid a winter COVID surge that saw the show scaled back by one day and impose mandatory mask and social-distancing restrictions. Attendance numbered just over 45,000 people, compared to 170,000 for the 2020 show, while the number of exhibitors fell by more than half the record high of 4,400 set in January 2020, prompting the closure of the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This year, CES has no restrictions of any kind, and before the show’s opening the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the annual event, said the show’s footprint will be 50% bigger than the January 2022 CES. The CTA said there would be at least 2,400 exhibitors, 1,000 of them newcomers, and set an attendee goal of 100,000.

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In late November, CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro in a statement said he’s “thrilled with the show’s momentum.”

Over the next four days, we’ll see how it all plays out.

For the first time ever, CES has a theme: how technology is addressing the world’s biggest challenges. The show’s legacy consumer electronics focus has long ago taken a back seat to mobile tech, health tech and smart homes, while home entertainment — remember the days when most of the talk was about the latest DVD players and 3D Blu-ray devices? — is limited to a handful of streamers and dozens of service providers that hope to do business with them.   

According to the CTA, the automotive sector is bigger than ever, making CES one of the largest auto shows in the world, with nearly 300 exhibitors in West Hall. Global launches and keynotes from BMW and Stellantis lead into exhibits featuring the latest in self-driving tech, electric vehicles and personal mobility devices for land, air and sea.

Digital health also remains big, with exhibitors showcasing advancements in digital therapeutics, mental wellness, women’s health tech and telemedicine. CTA’s Digital Health Studio, presented by The American College of Emergency Physicians, is presenting the latest in technology for diagnostic and treatment functions as well as the importance of remote connectivity for accessible healthcare. Key exhibitors include Abbott, LOTTE Healthcare, MedWand Solutions and Omron Healthcare. 

On the sustainability front, global brands such as John Deere, LG, Samsung and Siemens are showing how innovation can conserve energy and increase power generation, create more sustainable agricultural systems, power smart cities, and support access to clean water. 

And for the first time, CES 2023 has a dedicated Metaverse area on the show floor. Exhibitors are showcasing groundbreaking sensory technology building immersive, interactive digital worlds. A Web3 Studio, produced by CoinDesk, is the focal point of the Web3, Metaverse and Blockchain area at CES.

The CTA also announced that in partnership with the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, it is supporting the global campaign Human Security for All (HS4A). The HS4A campaign serves to cultivate collaboration and innovation across all industries, all countries, to improve the human experience.

“CES is the world’s most exciting technology event, from startups in Eureka Park to global brands on the main stages. We are thrilled to spotlight thousands of innovative companies at this year’s show,” said Shapiro. “Tech advances are helping to solve the world’s greatest challenges, and CES 2023 will set the agenda for the year ahead.” 

TCL Bows New Mini-LED TV With 98-Inch Screen, Video Gaming Functionality

China’s consumer electronics giant TCL Jan. 4 unveiled an updated line of QLED televisions (a new type of LED-backlit LCD TV) and soundbars at the CES 2023 confab in Las Vegas.

The company, which established a foothold in the U.S. market in 2014 with the launch of a branded Roku OS television, disclosed a new TV lineup across the S-Series and all-new Q Series TV models that include the company’s latest 98-inch screen model ($8,500) in the high-end QM8 collection to become TCL’s largest-screen mini-LED TV.

TCL is readying a line of QD-OLED televisions, which use so-called “quantum dots” in the pursuit of an alleged superior picture than OLED TVs. The company is also rolling out technology dubbed “Game Accelerator,” which claims to offer higher frame rates enabling high resolution and smoother images while playing video games.

TCL’s emphasis on larger screens across its televisions, in addition to upgrades for video gaming and enhanced cinematic home entertainment viewing, has helped the manufacturer become the No. 2-selling TV brand in the U.S. over the past four years, with unit sales totaling more than 25 million, according to the company.

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Big-screen televisions and football are frequently a winning combo, and TCL is spending big marketing dollars.

“2023 will be groundbreaking for TCL as the Official TV Partner of the NFL,” Chris Hamdorf, SVP, TCL North America, said in a statement.

To target football consumers in the home ahead of Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, TCL said it will rollout retail deals later in January to fans looking to buy a big screen TV.

“TCL’s pledge to make giant screens up to 98-inches will help the NFL continue to elevate fans’ experience and deepen their passion for the sport,” Hamdorf said.

Xperi Adds Imax Signature Sound, DTS:X to Disney+, LG OLED TVs

Xperi Jan. 4 announced that the integration of its DTS:X audio technology into Imax’s Enhanced signature sound platform is expected to launch on Disney+ this year, with the SVOD/AVOD platform looking to deliver enhanced audio and visual technology to select Disney+ movies in the home.

DTS,  a wholly owned subsidiary of Xperi Inc., is aggressively trying to embed its technology in more consumer electronics devices, including LG’s latest OLED and Premium LCD televisions, to enhance the home entertainment experience.

DTS:X technology for TV claims to offer a cinematic audio experience directly to the living room on compatible 4K HD televisions. With the introduction of LG’s previously reported newest OLED and Premium LCD TVs featuring DTS:X technology, LG’s customers stream movies in immersive sound from their TV speakers. LG also has a line of DTS:X-enabled soundbars designed to be paired with LG TVs to further elevate streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc movies.

“DTS is enabling a new level of audio experience to the home,” Jea Yoo, president of Korea at Xperi, said in a statement.

TiVo Bows Branded OS Integration on Chipsets for Smart TVs

TiVo and Amlogic, a semiconductor company, Jan. 4 announced that they have pre-integrated co-branded 4K and 2K chipsets for the United States and European television markets.

According to TiVo, TV original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are under pressure to respond to consumer price sensitivity in the low-margin smart TV market and often lack the scale to develop the content relationships necessary to build their own proprietary streaming platforms.

TiVo reports its operating system is a first-of-its-kind independent media platform that gives OEMs significantly more control over the user experience, access to critical content service providers, and a portable partnership model.

“Smart TVs powered by TiVo are at the forefront of innovation, providing new ways for consumers to enjoy TV with easy setup, an award-winning personalized experience and natural voice navigation,” Benjamin Maughan, GM of smart-TV media platforms at Xperi, said in a statement.

James Xie, SVP of corporate business strategy at Amlogic, said the collaborative TiVo OS on Amlogic 4K and 2K chipsets will make it easier and faster for TV OEMs to deliver a multimedia experience to U.S. and European consumers.

“We believe that the industry will benefit from a partner-oriented, independent media platform that provides the necessary scale, both in technology and content, to satisfy the global media landscape,” Xie said.

CTA: Consumer Electronics, Tech Revenue to Remain Above Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023

Domestic spending on consumer electronics and related technology is projected to reach $485 billion in 2023, according to analysis from the Consumer Technology Association. While the tally is below the record $512 billion consumers spent in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, it remains $50 billion above pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Spending categories include consumer electronics, gaming, video and audio streaming apps, automotive technology, fitness and health devices, among others.

Gary Shapiro

“The technology industry is a deflationary force in the global economy,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said in a statement ahead of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “The constantly evolving nature of technology leads industries to find newer, more-efficient ways to drive commerce. CES has become the destination for innovators who are making business more efficient and improving our quality of life in industries like agriculture, transportation, health and so many more.”

The trade group has lowered sales projections for laptops, LCD TVs, tablets, smartphones and video game consoles, while the OLED TV is expected to see sales increases (up $2.3 billion) as manufacturers push the enhanced products. As previously reported, portable game consoles should see a 41% uptick in consumer spending to $1.5 billion, from $1.06 billion.

Shapiro contends lawmakers in Washington, D.C., can help American entrepreneurs by advocating for a proactive and pro-innovation approach to trade.

“We need to eliminate tariffs that amount to taxes on U.S. businesses, and spur exports by striking new trade deals with our friends and allies,” he said.