What the US needs to maintain leadership in 5G, tech innovation

This week at CES® – the world’s largest and most influential tech event – we’ll see thousands of examples of new technological wonders: devices that give us greater control of our health, immersive entertainment experiences powered by virtual reality, the latest in self-driving technology and so much more.

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For these innovations to find their way from the CES show floor into the U.S. marketplace, we need fair and flexible government policies that promote innovation. As the U.S. heads into a new legislative season, we must prioritize the policies that underscore our status as a nation of innovators.

Here are three critical issues that need to be addressed:

Tariffs

President Trump made the right decision to suspend the tariff rate at 10 percent while the administration negotiates with China. But the tech sector has already been dealt an enormous blow by tariffs. Section 301 tariffs on imported Chinese products now cost our industry an additional $1 billion per month, according to a Consumer Technology Association study.

In October, the tech industry paid $122 million more on 5G-related imports alone compared to the year before. This year will be a critical one for 5G implementation – but the uncertainty of possibly even more tariffs combined with potential new export controls particularly threaten the U.S.’s global lead on this front. If the Trump administration negotiates with China to end tariffs and address the concerns of forced tech transfers and IP theft, the U.S. will maintain its leadership in 5G.

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Data Privacy

Last year the California legislature rushed through a poorly-written consumer privacy law with little input from stakeholders. While California was the first state to enact a wide-sweeping privacy law, it won’t be the last.

States across the country are looking to fill the void left by the federal government and follow in California’s footsteps. This kind of patchwork approach to data privacy laws is untenable – innovation is not siloed by states.

Federal leaders must partner with industry leaders to develop a uniform, national framework that appropriately values consumer privacy and encourages economic growth and innovation. The challenge will be protecting consumers while allowing them to decide what services they want and information they’re willing to share to use them.

We’ve been down this road before. When credit cards were first introduced, people didn’t want to use them because they were afraid of the consequences of theft. Congress intervened and rightly set a $50 maximum liability for someone whose credit card was used by someone else.

Data drives innovation and powers many of the free services consumers rely on. Congress must be sure any legislation it drafts on the use of data propels innovation forward instead of stymying it.

Immigration

According to a report by the Center for American Entrepreneurship, 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded or cofounded by first- or second-generation immigrants. Instead of shutting down the government over walls and fences, we need strategic immigration reforms that encourage foreign-born entrepreneurs and U.S.-educated immigrants to remain in the United States to build businesses and create jobs.

Clamping down on immigration not only hobbles our economy, it betrays our values. We must embrace a solution that prioritizes border security and opens the door for top talent -- without compromising our humanity. This will enable us to thrive in the global economy of the future.

The tech sector is the engine of the U.S economy – supporting 10 percent of our country’s GDP and more than 15 million U.S. jobs. This didn’t happen by magic. Our nation took calculated risks and passed thoughtful laws that have allowed innovation to flourish.

This smart, balanced approach has allowed U.S. tech companies to thrive. And a thoughtful regulatory approach in 2019 will allow the U.S. to continue its reign as a global leader in innovation.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, a U.S. trade group that represents more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and a New York Times best-selling author. He is the author of the recently-released book, "Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation." His views are his own.