Trump's State of the Union speech can't neglect US tech leadership

Trump's State of the Union speech can't neglect US tech leadership
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The technology industry is driven by the potential the future holds. From turning a simple code into a device that can detect diseases and save lives, to growing a small online network among friends into a global platform that transforms the way we communicate, we’re always looking forward. The State of the Union address offers a key moment for the president to outline his vision for the future, too.

As President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE prepares in the final hours before his address, we encourage him to put a spotlight on the priorities and initiatives our industry believes will improve the lives of real people and place America on a pathway to remain a land of ingenuity and leadership. We suggest focusing on the following areas:

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Nothing is more important to the United States’ future than ensuring Americans are prepared to lead productive lives. To achieve that goal, America must become a place of life-long learners and home to the best and brightest.

 

Rarely a day goes by without news of digitization, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality affecting the workplace. While no one knows for sure what the impact of this will be, we do know the world of work is changing, and we must address these evolving demands. In 2016, there were approximately 3.3 million science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs openings in the U.S. posted online. By contrast, in that same year, U.S. universities graduated 568,000 students with STEM degrees. We need a nationwide initiative to invest in training and provide future generations of workers with the skills they need to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce and approaches to continually update those skills.

While our sector is leading the effort to do just that, it will take a nationwide commitment with the support of government and academic partners to ensure we are providing the best education and training so the American workforce can meet the demands of the jobs of tomorrow.

If the U.S. is to be home to the best and brightest, it needs a new approach to immigration. Immigrants are behind many of the ideas and innovations that have created thousands of jobs, boosted economic growth and made the U.S. a leader in the tech industry. In fact, half of the 87 startup companies valued at more than $1 billion in the U.S. were founded by at least one immigrant, and each of these companies now employs an average of 760 U.S. workers.

However, the current U.S. immigration system cannot meet the needs of today’s economy and is not equipped for future demands. U.S. policies must support and recognize the innovation contributions and diverse talents of people of all backgrounds to grow the economy and make the country as competitive as possible. The U.S. must embrace policies like high-skilled worker visas so companies, manufacturers, and small businesses can attract the world’s best talent to work in the U.S. alongside the pacesetters, entrepreneurs, and other individuals who power the U.S. workforce, drive innovation, create jobs, and help the country compete globally. This effort must also speak to U.S. values by including a permanent legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to ensure these hard-working young people can continue to contribute to their communities and the economy.

Further, to ensure U.S. companies thrive in our digital reality, they must have unfettered access to competitive, fast-growing markets abroad. That means U.S. trade policies across the globe must allow for the free flow of data and expansion of technology across borders. In turn, the U.S. will see economic growth, job creation, and reap the benefits of trade for years to come. As part of that effort, the U.S. must commit to supporting a NAFTA agreement that enshrines strong provisions to modernize digital trade, continue to grow business, and encourage innovation.  

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The U.S. must also develop a strategic engagement with China that is more reciprocal and reflective of the economies’ long-term interdependence. Simply placing tariffs on China will not get us there, and would harm U.S. business interests and consumers much more than China.  Instead, the U.S. must find approaches that push China to truly open its market in a more reciprocal fashion, hold it accountable, and create mechanisms for sustained dialogue.   

Finally, U.S. transportation and infrastructure systems are long overdue for a 21st century modernization. In today’s digital reality, where nearly everything — from cars and public transportation to public service and utilities — is connected to the internet, it’s time to make sure smart technologies are part of these structures. This will improve safety, boost the economy, increase U.S. competitiveness, and enhance lives.

This also means providing a pathway on the “information super-highway” that enables all Americans to fully participate in today’s economy. Nearly 34 million Americans and 39 percent of rural America lack access to the power of the internet that many of us take for granted, blocking them from a critical path to economic growth. Investing in broadband is an investment in the potential of Americans, no matter where they live. It helps drives the innovation that brings new technologies, creates jobs, and boosts the economy across the country.

This Tuesday night, the tech industry will be listening carefully to the president as he outlines his plan for the future of this country. We hope he seizes this moment and shares a vision that can bring people together and continue to harness the United States’ incredible potential.

Dean Garfield is the president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents 60 of the most innovative technology companies in the world.