President Obama and Mitt Romney delved into several topics of interest to the tech industry in their second debate, including China, taxes, and research funding.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, accused China of "cheating over the years" in manipulating its currency, as well as "stealing our intellectual property -- our designs, our patents, our technology." He pointed to counterfeit Apple stores selling counterfeit goods in China. "They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis."
Obama, meanwhile, pointed to Romney's investments that have been linked to companies in China. "Governor, you're the last person who's going to get tough on China," he said.
The back-and-forth over China won plaudits from Information Technology & Innovation Foundation President Rob Atkinson.
"Both candidates appear to realize the United States is facing serious issues with China in the next four years," Atkinson said in a statement. "China's aggressive use of standards manipulation, forced tech transfer, IP theft, and other mercantilist practices have come to pose a serious threat to the rules-based trading system."
Obama argued that tax cuts could undermine American research and development programs. "'We've got the best science and research in the world," he said. "If we're adding to our deficit for tax cuts, for folks who don't need them, and we're cutting investments in research and science that will create the next app, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race."
Information Technology Industry Council CEO Dean Garfield said that Obama and Romney started out strong, but failed to articulate a comprehensive plan.
"For the first half, almost three-quarters, of the town-hall debate tonight, we thought the candidates actually got it," Garfield wrote in a blog post. "They reached into the tech toolbox for job creation. However, neither came close to outlining a comprehensive national jobs and innovation strategy to accelerate our economic recovery."
He especially disliked the president's criticism of proposals to reform the way corporations pay taxes overseas. "With about 20 minutes left, the debate took a turn toward bad ideas backed by bad information, primarily on tax reform," Garfield wrote. "The president criticized the very same competitive, market-based tax reform plan that most advanced economies use and his best economic advisers say is integral to American companies' competitiveness and ability to create jobs here at home."