Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (July 13) confirmed during a conference call from Europe that GOP and Trump campaign officials have offered him a “primetime slot” to speak at the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland.
Hutchinson made his comments to capital reporters while highlighting the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s official announcement of the opening of Arkansas’ new European office in the capital city of Germany. Hutchinson, state economic development officials and large delegation of aviation, aerospace and defense business leaders from Arkansas will end their six-day trade mission to Europe on tomorrow.
In an aside concerning his selection to speech next week at the highly anticipated and likely nomination of Donald Trump as the GOP candidate for president, Hutchinson said he was excited about the opportunity to “shape the debate” for the Republican Party heading into November elections.
“I can confirm that I will be speaking at the convention, and I expect to be on Tuesday night in primetime,” Hutchinson told reporters. “So I have been in discussions with the convention managers and the Donald Trump campaign, and they are still waiting to release a final list of the speakers and we are anxious for that to happen.”
Hutchinson said he has been working on his speech for a long time, but would not divulge details what he plans to talk about or if he would officially endorse Trump.
“I am also pleased that I am going to speak to a number of state delegations while I am there, and actively doing some media,” he offered. “My goal as I have the opportunity to go to the convention is to help shape the debate, to help broadcast some of the (political) successes in Arkansas, and obviously to make sure that we have a convention that lays a good foundation for Donald Trump to run on in the fall.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is set to speak on Monday night of the GOP Convention.
Earlier in his conference call, Hutchinson talked the first two days of the European trade mission in the United Kingdom, where he and the state trade delegation opened up an Arkansas exhibit at the Farnborough International Air Show in London.
ARKANSAS OPENS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICE IN BERLIN
On the second leg of the delegation’s trip to Berlin after two days in London, Hutchinson told reporters he oversaw the opening of the state’s third international office with a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Emerson.
At the event, state Economic Development Chief Mike Preston announced that Cornelius Schnitzler, a German national with a background in economics and trade, will run the new Arkansas office and work closely with Lenka Horakova, AEDC’s Director of Business Development for Europe.
“We are seeing more European businesses interested in expanding in the United States, and this is the ideal time to capitalize on recent momentum and keep Arkansas on the radar,” said Hutchinson. “Berlin was a logical choice due our state’s close business ties with Germany. Gaining access to international governments and business leaders requires well-established relationships, which Mr. Schnitzler has developed throughout Europe.”
Hutchinson said Schnitzler was chosen because of his established business relationships in Europe. He is fluent in German, English and French. In discussing why Berlin was selected at Arkansas’ third international after Japan and China, Hutchinson said Germany is the largest foreign direct investor in Arkansas with more than 30 German subsidiaries located in the state.
“Germany is our lead European trade partner …, so it is natural that Berlin would be the center point for our European offices,” he said.
HUTCHINSON: EUROPE TRIP WILL RESULT IN ARKANSAS JOBS
So far, Hutchinson said he and state economic development officials have met with executives of more than 20 companies in London and Berlin, and have additional meetings planned before the delegation heads back to the U.S.
“A couple observations I would make is that I am very impressed with the opportunities for Arkansas in aerospace and defense industry (in Europe), and their recognition of our interest in it and the significant companies that are invested in Arkansas and have a great deal of national respect,” the governor said.
Second, the governor said he has been impressed during the trip in the overall trade interest from companies in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other European countries looking to expand or export to the United States.
“Whenever they have that view in Europe of seeing (America) as a great market for them toward investing in manufacturing in the United States, then Arkansas has to be here at the table competing with other states that are present so that we can make sure that a portion of that investment is directed to Arkansas,” he said.
And although Arkansas has not made any major job announcements as a result of the European trade mission, Hutchinson was optimistic that the state will see long-term pay back. “I do absolutely expect results from this trip, and we have none to announce from this trip, but there are well over a dozen significant leads that we have to follow up on and we are delighted for the results of this trip so far.”
BREXIT VOTE WILL IMPROVE ARKANSAS TRADE DEALS
Later on in the interview, Hutchinson also gave his impressions of his discussion with trade officials during his two-day stint in London on how the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union with affect the state’s trading relations in Europe.
“It is my view that this will not put any damper on increased trade opportunities with Europe,” he said. “It is my judgment that we will be in a better position to negotiate trade deals, and I believe the European Commission is in a weaker negotiation posture prior to the Brexit vote.”
In particular, Hutchinson said Arkansas will now be able to negotiate better deals for exporting state’s agriculture commodities to Europe, especially in the poultry and rice industries.
“There tough negotiating position has been reduced and hampered as of the Brexit vote, and from that stance I am optimistic in the long-term that we will have a better market over here for our agricultural products, and I don’t see Europe’s investment in the United States slowing down at all,” he said.
LETHAL INJECTION DRUGS, SETTING DEATH PENALTY DATE
Hutchinson also took questions from reporters during the 30-minute conference concerning state Department of Corrections announcement on Tuesday that it has a new supply of the expired drugs that are used for lethal injections in the state of Arkansas.
The Correction Department, which operates state prisons, carries out executions of inmates who have been convicted of capital crimes. Under Act 1096, the department shall select one of the following options for lethal injection: a barbiturate or midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide, followed by potassium chloride. State correction officials said Tuesday that they’ve received a supply of vecuronium bromide with an expiration date of March 1, 2018. The state’s previous supply of the paralytic expired on June 30.
In a split decision last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against eight inmates on death row who argued that a secrecy provision in Arkansas’ execution procedures was unconstitutional. By a vote of 4-to-3 the court overturned a Pulaski County judge who had ruled previously in favor of the inmates’ claim that sections of Act 1096 of 2015 were unconstitutional. Act 1096 keeps confidential the identity of the pharmaceutical companies that sell the lethal injection drugs to the state.
“I was informed yesterday had acquired the drug had expired and that the supply had been replenished,” the governor said of the new supply of lethal injection drugs. “I was encouraged that the legislative passage of confidential law had the desired effect of increasing that supply.”
Hutchinson said the “next step” is hear the mandate from the Arkansas Supreme Court on pending death row cases.
“Once the mandate is issued, then the Attorney General will take the next step to advise of any individuals who are subject to execution and request that dates be set, and it will be my obligation under the law to set those dates.”
Hutchinson said it is his intention once he receives a letter from the AG’s office to set dates for the first executions in Arkansas since 2005. Since 1820, a total of 504 individuals have been executed. According Correction Department officials, there are a total of 34 men were under a sentence of death in the state. as of Aug. 5, 2015. Hutchinson said expects to set new dates for executions before January 2017.
“It has way to long and painful for the victims and their families, so we would the dates without any undue delay,” the governor said. “It is my job as chief executive to faithfully execute the law.”
Later, in response to a question concerning possible racial biases in execution of prisoners in the state of Arkansas, Hutchinson replied “that is the kind of question that is resolved through constitutional challenges of convictions.”
He added that in each of the instances for the state high court, there has been no constitutional issue raised that has had merit. However, he allowed that state policymakers to continually evaluating whether or not the criminal justice system is fair to all individuals.
“It is a very legitimate point of evaluation to make sure that our criminal justice system is working fairly, that we are incarcerating the right people, and there is no racial bias in the system,” he said. “I hope that we continue to debate it, and try to get it right and listen to each other when there are legitimate issues raised.”