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Forward From the Conventions

For anyone who cared to notice at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it was abundantly clear that technology issues dovetail neatly with both parties’ views of our national interest.

In their respective platforms, in the subtext of speeches, and at peripheral events in both Tampa and Charlotte, I heard general agreement that the things technology companies most need today — such as expanded trade in IT products and services, strong intellectual property protections for innovators, and measures to deepen America’s reservoir of human capital — go directly to the core issues of this year’s campaign: jobs and the economy. The challenge now is to turn those aspirations into results.

As Katherine McGuire argued in her post last week, there is an urgent need — and plenty of opportunity, even against the backdrop of the campaign season — for lawmakers to make progress before the current session of Congress ends. But there are also opportunities to make progress outside the legislative arena, starting in the near term and requiring sustained effort in 2013 and beyond. Here are three areas where BSA will be focusing attention:

  1. Bolstering intellectual property protections in China. Both parties identify these as pressing needs, and rightly so. First and foremost, the software industry continues to confront staggeringly high software piracy rates in China, because IP protections there are weak and enforcement is weaker. The Administration is to be commended for raising these concerns to the top of the bilateral agenda in recent negotiating sessions of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT). It will be important to keep up the pressure when the two sides meet again later this year.
  2. Stopping the spread of IT-focused protectionism in other key markets. As our recent Lockout report made clear, China is not the only country where America’s IT innovators face market barriers. Around the world, especially in developing economies, governments are taking advantage of gaps in international trade agreements and implementing a new wave of behind-the-border regulations to keep out products and services they fear will outshine local offerings. Negotiations for the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — continuing this week in Leesburg, Va. — provide a critical opportunity to push back against the trend. Among other things, the TPP can advance world-class IP protections and promote a level playing field for technology by stamping out favoritism in public procurement policies.
  3. Fostering the cloud computing market by ensuring data can flow across borders. American companies are among the world’s leading cloud service providers. They have the potential to add tremendous value to the economy by growing at home and in overseas markets. Regrettably, though, governments around the world are taking steps to prevent a global cloud market from taking shape. Some are adopting regulations to inhibit Web- or cloud-based content services. Others are making it hard to move data across borders. Still others are requiring data centers that serve their citizens to be located inside their borders. That makes little sense in the cloud era, and we should take every opportunity to turn back the tide — starting in the TPP negotiations and continuing in other agreements and regional forums.

A lot of attention following the Republican and Democratic conventions will now be focused on the general election campaign. That is as it should be: picking the President is serious business. But we can’t lose focus on critical issues that go directly to the short-term and long-term fortunes of the US and global economy.

The good news is that innovations like cloud computing can contribute to the kind of growth everyone wants. But to seize those opportunities, we must overcome a host of market barriers. We cannot ignore them or relegate them to back-burner status, now or in the years ahead.

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