President Donald Trump has created an “Office of American Innovation” and an “American Technology Council” to promote an America First economic policy. The head of the Council, Jared Kushner, hosted an event at the White House last month to promote technology week. Among the invited companies was one that did not fit in – the German tech company SAP.
On the official White House issues page on the website titled “Bring Back Jobs and Growth” it states the following: “We will ensure that trade agreements bring good-paying jobs to our shores and support American manufacturing, the backbone of our economy. The President plans to show America’s trading partners that we mean business by ensuring consequences for countries that engage in illegal or unfair trade practices that hurt American workers.” Keeping jobs in the United States and not outsourcing jobs to foreign companies is part of President Trump’s economic plan. That is why the inclusion of SAP was a head scratcher.
This White House Innovation Council is pushing for American innovation and technology. Some of the most successful foreign tech companies like Deutsche Telecom, Europe’s largest internet provider, wasn’t invited. Alibaba, China’s most popular e-commerce site, and Amazon and eBay’s largest competitor, was off the invite list too. Yandex, the Google of Russia, is another successful multinational corporation that was not invited. All of these companies are at least as successful, yet it was obvious that they were not proper invitees to a summit sponsored by the American Technology Council. For some unknown reason, the CEO of SAP, was not only in attendance, but he was lecturing White House officials on the need to outsource management software purchases to this German company.
SAP is a company that provides software for business management and customer relations. USA Today reported that the CEO Bill McDermott attended the summit and his company put out a statement that read that the company “supports the stated goals of the American Technology Council and its efforts to transform and modernize the federal government, and innovate how agencies use and deliver information.” Other reports indicated that SAP pitched the summit on the U.S. government using the German produced software for government services.
The summit served a very important purpose because the U.S. government is living in the dark ages when it comes to use of technology. President Trump spoke of a “sweeping transformation” in the federal government’s use of technology. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook argued that “the U.S. should have the most modern government in the world and today it doesn’t. It’s great to see the effort that Jared is putting in in working on things that will pay back in five and 10 and 20 years.” That transformation should be with technology from Google, Microsoft, Apple and Oracle, not outsources to foreign competitors like Germany’s Deutsche Telecom, China’s Alibaba, Russia’s Yandex and SAP.
Protectionism is something that the tech community would like to avoid. It will lead to a trade war and other nations preventing American companies from providing technology and services abroad. A trade war would lead to countries walling off their economies from the world in a way where everybody would lose. That is an extreme way to push an America first economic policy.
Yet, another extreme idea is to use taxpayer money to purchase the services of a company wholly owned outside the United States with comparable technology made in America. The idea that the United States government would purchase the services of a foreign company when an American company does the identical function seems absurd.
The White House probably made a mistake in inviting a German technology provider to come to an “America First” White House technology summit. Hopefully, as the White House offices of American Innovation and American technology don’t outsource invitations to the next summit for other foreign companies.