Washington, July 31 - The incoming American ambassador to Italy spoke at a confirmation hearing Wednesday before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "In an evermore globalized world, our economic ties with Italy are very important for the health of the American economy," said John Phillips. "The United States is first in terms of foreign investments in Italy". Phillips is a Washington lawyer and founder of the executive committee Taxpayers Against Fraud. His grandparents changed their name from Filippi when they immigrated from Italy. He is married to Linda Douglass, the former director of communications for the White House Office of Health Reform. Phillips graduated from Notre Dame University in Indiana, then University of California, Berkley before setting up the Phillips and Coen law firm in Washington in 1988. He will take over for Ambassador David Thorne, who is finishing his four-year term.