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Stop it. Trump's trade policy is not 'the apocalypse'

harred branches and scorched earth are all that remains after a wildfire rolled through the terrain off Hwy 173 near Silverwood Lake on August 8, 2016 in San Bernardino County
Mark Boster | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
harred branches and scorched earth are all that remains after a wildfire rolled through the terrain off Hwy 173 near Silverwood Lake on August 8, 2016 in San Bernardino County

Donald Trump's election will disrupt the global economic status quo and it has significant implications for our technology entrepreneurs as well. I have spent years advocating for practical change in U.S. trade and economic policy.

I'm very proud that several of my colleagues in this fight have helped to develop the Trump economic program. That plan and their bold advocacy inspired America's working class and propelled Trump through the "Blue Wall" of the rust belt and into the White House.

The promise of good jobs is what made the difference in this campaign despite all the protest over the candidate's personality flaws. Trump's economic platform offers significant challenges for incumbent tech firms and great opportunities for the new maker-generation manufacturing startups.

Trump's trade and economic policies are integrated into an industrial policy, something the political establishment has long eschewed but which our successful global competitors execute on very well; think of Germany or South Korea. Trump's plan creates jobs and wealth for all Americans rather than serving the interests of nominally American multinational firms.

The objective of too many American tech startups has been to gather U.S.-educated students (subsidized by taxpayers), exploit U.S. research (funded by taxpayers) and then collect capital from U.S. markets (often subsidized by taxpayers) while avoiding the establishment of businesses that actually made things in America or pay American taxes.

Business schools and venture capitalists have encouraged our young entrepreneurs to focus on software solutions that require few human workers or on hardware made cheaply in Shenzhen.

"America's workers were told to put down their tools and go to college so they could all design the next iPhone. The dirty task of actually making those things would happen somewhere else, at lower wages. That's simply ridiculous and we have a generation of college grads with mountains of debt competing for low paying jobs."

That model has been good for top engineering grads and marketers, but it failed to provide living wages for middle-class workers. It has also served investment bankers and stock investors well, while undermining our government tax base.

Multinational firms like Apple avoid paying wages to U.S. workers and avoid American environmental regulations while managing corporate shell games that hide billions of dollars overseas. That money should be building infrastructure in America instead of piling up in Irish and Caribbean banks.

Meanwhile, America's workers were told to put down their tools and go to college so they could all design the next iPhone. The dirty task of actually making those things would happen somewhere else, at lower wages. That's simply ridiculous and we have a generation of college grads with mountains of debt competing for low paying jobs.

The result has been growing economic inequality and the political disruption behind this election. Like every nation, we need an economy that provides decent wages and dignity for all levels of workers, and we need that more than we need cheap consumer goods.

The president-elect will adjust U.S. corporate taxes to competitive levels and reduce burdensome regulations. That will be good for the mid-sized businesses that actually pay these taxes and it will encourage the larger ones to start paying. Trump's plan also calls for balancing our chronic trade deficit and leveling the playing field for the U.S. We will finally hold our global competitors to account for currency manipulation, cheating and lax regulatory enforcement.

We must also demand reciprocal market access. If it is illegal for Americans to own property or firms in "strategic sectors" in China, then why are they doing that here? If Facebook and Twitter are illegal in China, then why is Alibaba allowed to run its dubious IPO on Wall Street?

While this will disturb global markets in the short term it will be far from the apocalypse that the establishment fears. America still holds the most valuable consumer and capital markets in the world. Nations will choose to accommodate a United States that trades strategically and fairly. The alternative is to continue the discredited "Free Trade" experiment that has resulted in 30 years of climbing deficits and accumulating debt.

Tech firms that adapt to the new economic reality will flourish. Startups that invest in America's productive workers and develop the tools they need to compete globally will prosper. Finally, GDP growth will return to levels that can actually sustain the demands on our government, without borrowing money from our global competitors. Shared prosperity will produce a more pleasant political environment for us all.

Commentary by Greg Autry, an educator, writer and serial technology entrepreneur. He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship with the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, where he teaches small business management and technology entrepreneurship. Dr. Autry's research is focused on innovation policy and the influences of government on entrepreneurial environments.

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