Opinion

Trump and Tech’s Intertwined Goals

The tech leaders invited to Wednesday’s meeting with President-elect Donald Trump collectively represent more than 1.3 million U.S. jobs and have a total market capitalization of $2.9 trillion.

In short, they are critical to our country’s economic success. While the tech industry did not openly support Trump in this election cycle, technology is not political by nature. Now, the industry and Trump must choose to be allies, as we share interests and views on the biggest issues important to building a bright future for all Americans.

The tech executives meeting with Trump are living the American Dream. Each of them achieved success through intellect, perseverance and bold thinking. They also want America to live up to its greatest potential.

Trump values and respects the American Dream and its adjuncts: hard work, creativity and entrepreneurship. As host of TV’s “The Apprentice,” Trump challenged contestants to be creative, focused and sell something new. More, Trump has a diverse business background and would likely restrict the runaway federal bureaucracy, which also frustrates many tech company CEOs.

Both Trump and the tech industry are more committed to solving problems than adhering to ideology. Trump shows signs of being a compromiser — from his book, “The Art of the Deal,” to his early engagement with No Labels, a bipartisan group focused on solving our nation’s biggest problems: energy, job creation, entitlements and the national debt. He is a patriot, and his litmus test should be not whether someone comes from the political right or left, but whether they and their ideas are right or wrong for America.

We can agree that Trump knows how to build. It’s among his stated priorities upon assuming office. Future infrastructure projects should allow the latest fiber optic, 5G and sensor technology to lay the groundwork for self-driving cars. These projects can be funded with taxes on the $2 trillion repatriated from overseas by U.S. companies that now avoid the current 35 percent U.S. corporate tax rate, the highest rate of any developed country.

The Trump administration has every incentive to do what it takes to support U.S. businesses, because above all, Trump cares about economic growth, and tech jobs are high-paying jobs. Tech is tied into the success of the U.S. economy.

Collectively, tech companies represent more than 20 percent of the S&P 500. In 2015 alone, the consumer tech sector generated $3.5 trillion in direct, indirect and induced economic output, supporting more than 15 million jobs, according to research conducted by PwC for the Consumer Technology Association. Given his interest in immediate feedback, Trump will likely measure his success as president by the stock market.

Even on seeming areas of disagreement, there may be overlap allowing a joint agenda. Immigration is supposed to be divisive, with tech favoring immigration, while Trump wants to restrict it. But the truth is more complex.

On the campaign trail, Trump voiced his support for H-1B visas that allow skilled students trained at U.S. universities to stay here after graduation “so they can go to work in Silicon Valley.” The tech industry knows that highly skilled immigrants, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates from U.S. universities, are good for America.

Immigrants played a founding role in more than half of the 87 American startups with billion-dollar-plus valuations. Abuses of H-1B visa program can be corrected by legislation – such as the bipartisan Protect and Grow American Jobs Act introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) – restricting use of visas by outsourcing companies.

And the tech industry embraces a greater focus on both STEM and technical training. We need fewer students at four-year colleges with unemployable degrees and more enrolled in vocational training. The tech industry is already working with and investing in our schools to ensure they are teaching 21st-century skills.

Finally, on trade, where tech favors free trade, and Trump has called for an end to “bad agreements,” both industry and Trump actually agree that our trade agreements should benefit Americans and can be updated or made stronger. As the world-dominant U.S. tech industry faces protectionism and even hostility from the European Union and China, Trump’s support could help U.S. tech companies.

Other agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, can be tweaked to reflect changing times, such as the growth of the internet and greater worker protections in the U.S.  Trump could resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership by fixing stumbling blocks to its success. That would secure him a triple win by also preserving the agreement’s value as a strategic tool to match China’s growing strength, while protecting our companies from global intellectual-property and cybersecurity threats. And perhaps he’ll sign a new deal with Great Britain.

I am encouraged by Wednesday’s meeting at Trump Tower, a sign the Trump administration values the importance and contributions of our industry — not only to the U.S. economy, but also to the millions of Americans whose lives are being changed for the better by the power of consumer technology.

 

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of The New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own.

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