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Congress

Tech Sector, Obama Administration Reach Detente

January 28, 2011

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Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesCES President and CEO Gary Shapiro

From today's National Journal Daily:

Instead of making progress on its key priorities, the technology sector spent much of the past two years battling the Obama administration over what it viewed as regulatory roadblocks and worrisome policy initiatives.

But President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday, which featured a major push for innovation, might represent a turning point for the sector's relationship with the administration.

A series of interviews this week with the heads of some of Washington's lead associations representing high-tech and electronics powerhouses showed that there was agreement that the administration has turned a corner, but caution over grand pronouncements that lack detail.

As companies from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley argued during the last two years that global competitiveness hinges on policies designed to promote investment and innovation, they often found themselves on the defensive from an administration that railed against their overseas operations while toughening regulations at home.

But with an economy that stubbornly remains stagnant on job creation and a resurgent Republican Party, a sea change is afoot in Washington. Obama's speech, in which he outlined an ambitious strategy for spurring innovation and investment across a range of industries, confirmed that tech-related priorities are finally resonating at the White House.

U.S. competitiveness was a prominent theme in the speech, which featured endorsements of a steep increase in research and development funding and an overhaul of the corporate tax code--two of the tech sector's main goals. The president called for the next-generation of wireless phone and Internet service to be available to 98 percent of Americans over the next five years. And he said it's time to ease strict limits on the entry of highly skilled workers into the United States, prepare 100,000 new math and science teachers, and negotiate more trade pacts.

This was "the first time he really gave a long-term vision about a strategy for the country which was focused on innovation," said Consumer Electronics President and CEO Gary Shapiro, noting that Obama used the term "innovation" nine times.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we'll see a change, not only in the rhetoric from the president, but a change in the priorities," said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Cisco, Google, Intel, and Microsoft.

To read the rest of this story, visit the website of National Journal Daily (subscription required).


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