CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro (left) conducts a Q&A session with incoming National Economic Council Director Brian Deese (right) at CES 2021.
With the incoming administration set to be implemented in a matter of days, business leaders from just about every industry are eagerly anticipating (or perhaps dreading) learning more about the economic direction our country may be about of embark on. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and its member companies are, of course, a large chunk of those companies.
In an unprecedented first look at where we may be headed, CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro conducted a CES Q&A session on Tuesday with Brian Deese, who will become the Director of the National Economic Council after Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. In short, the National Economic Council (NEC) was established in 1993 to advise the president on U.S. and global economic policy. The NEC has four principal functions: to coordinate policy-making for domestic and international economic issues, to coordinate economic policy advice for the president, to ensure that policy decisions and programs are consistent with the president’s economic goals, and to monitor implementation of the president’s economic policy agenda.
“That means taking the direction and the vision of the president and building it into a concrete action plan for economic prosperity, while also making sure that across all of our agencies we have a disciplined decision-making process where every issue can be heard, and then decided on effectively and efficiently,” Deese said.
Needless to say, Mr. Deese’s comments undoubtedly shed some light on Biden’s approach to technology, innovation, trade policy, and much more. Here are some of the highlights of Deese’s comments from Tuesday’s session:
On vaccine distribution:
“The vaccine itself is actually a testament to American innovation, technology and to partnership with between public and private sector. I want to be very clear: This is going to be hard, our operational challenge to extend vaccines, distribute them and get them into people’s arms will be one of the most complicated and costly operational challenges in our country’s history…We are going to need to partner with private-sector technology companies and other companies for logistical and supply chain expertise. Tech companies can really help in the public health response, including making sure that we are combating misinformation and providing clear information to the public. Another key element of this the president-elect has talked about is helping schools reopen safely, which is incredibly important to our economy.
On Biden’s “Build Back Better” economic vision:
Build back better is a nice alliteration, but it is a really important economic concept with the core idea that recognizing – even in a moment of economic crisis – that we have big structural challenges and therefore opportunities to address structural economic issues that have held back our economy’s potential. There’s a lot of opportunity – whether that’s with respect to the climate crisis, or thinking about how we can invest in infrastructure, create jobs but in a way where our economy is more resilient, reducing emissions and putting ourselves on a trajectory to a low carbon economy; or we think about attacking the structural inequities and racial inequities that our country has been plagued with for far too long. As we invest to try to address those issues in the immediate crisis, (we want to) address the fact that this crisis is disproportionately hitting black and brown businesses, for example – how do we do that in a way that actually builds more runway, to actually access capital in the future, to have more entrepreneurship, and to have more innovation within our domestic economy. That’s what build back better is really all about – how to take advantage of this moment to invest in the long-term positive structural changes that we want to see in the economy.
On trade with China:
I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of very specific moves or measures, but I think it is clear that China is our most serious global competitor, and this competition is going to be one of the central challenges of this century. One of the most important elements of the president-elect’s vision for how to approach this competition is that we need to rebuild our core areas of strength in the United States. One of the things you are going to see early on is a focus on investing domestically in our people, in our economy, in our democracy, building our industrial strength, having a clearer strategy around how to secure supply chains, and how to use procurement dollars that we invest to actually build economic capability. To do that, we have a lot of work to do here at home.
The second thing is to revitalize our alliances and our partnerships around the world, because we will take a multi-lateral approach…When we think about global economic issues, we are going to start from the perspective that we want to sit down with our allies and work through these issues to identify areas where we can work together. For example, we are going to be better positioned to put pressure on Beijing and hold them accountable when they are violating the rules if we’re working closely with our allies.
Part of the challenge that we have seen over the last couple of years has been the lack of a coherent strategy, and the application of tools in a way that doesn’t actually add up to an approach that helps U.S. companies, U.S. workers, and the U.S. economy. We will look at the overall approach and how to deploy tools in the toolbox to try to bring more coherence to that approach.
On communication with businesses:
There is a value to providing stability in terms of policy signals. We are going to take some approaches that are going to really focus on U.S. jobs, U.S. competitiveness, and investing here in the United States. That is going to be the core focus, but we are going to try to do that in a way where we are communicating clearly about why the steps we are taking fit into an overall strategy.
On training today’s workforce:
The building out of skills for workers – particularly those workers who are coming out of secondary (school) and looking at what are their options in this economy – is going to be an absolute focus. President-elect Biden is very focused on a significant increase in the number of apprenticeships. When done right and when built with the right partnership with labor and with companies, apprenticeships can really be effective. We want to strengthen registered apprenticeship programs, partner with unions, and make sure that there really is an on-ramp, even pre-apprenticeship, because some folks need a little bit of additional skilling even to be able to effectively go into an apprenticeship program.
We need a more holistic approach as well, because we can’t just focus on having apprenticeships. We also need to have our community colleges strengthened and make it affordable.
On the competitive landscape:
There’s a set of things that we need to do to make sure that we have a level playing field globally, and that we have a healthy economy where companies that are playing by the rules can actually thrive and be good employers create good jobs. Number one, the U.S. government can play an ongoing role in investing in the underlying drivers of innovation – R&D that has actually laid the groundwork for a lot of the innovation and technology that private companies are innovating around. The second is, is working to make sure that companies across the board – not just in tech but across the economy – are able to compete on a level playing field. Third is that is that private sector companies, large employers and the technology companies in particular have an obligation to…(address) what is it that they can do to be more thoughtful about how they are treating their workforce, how they are dealing with the data that they operate with, and about recognizing that there are stakeholders, other than shareholders that are important and essential to their long-term profitability.
Paul Rothman is Editor in Chief of Security Business magazine. Access the issue archives and subscribe at www.securitybusinessmag.com and follow us on linkedin (www.linkedin.com/company/security-business-magazine) and Twitter, @SecBusinessMag.