US trade deals need to be modernized for the digital future, says IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

Key Points
  • Trade deals between the U.S. and other nations are outdated, and any changes must work toward modernization, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty says.
  • "There was really nothing like a digital chapter in them. Nothing to protect IP, nothing to let data flow," she tells CNBC.
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Trade deals between the U.S. and other nations are outdated, and any changes must work toward modernization, IBM chair and CEO Ginni Rometty told CNBC on Wednesday.

"If you line up a set of priorities and one of the things I work on from a policy perspective, trade would be one of them," Rometty told "Squawk Box" from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico are working to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement amid persistent criticism from the Trump administration that the U.S. is getting a raw deal.

Ginni Rometty, Chairman, president and CEO of IBM at the 2018 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
Adam Galica | CNBC

Rometty said she's "a strong supporter of free and fair trade everywhere over the world" given that IBM is in 170 countries.

A handful of U.S. companies, including IBM, account for around 40 percent of total foreign direct investment in Mexico.

Rometty said many trade deals did updating.

"There was really nothing like a digital chapter in them. Nothing to protect IP, nothing to let data flow. So, they absolutely need to be modernized," she said.

Officials opened a key round of negotiations on NAFTA this week. President Donald Trump said the talks were going "pretty well" and Canada said it had high hopes for progress.

During an appearance at Davos, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the importance of NAFTA and Canada's openness to including more nations in future trade deals.

Canada also announced that it will join 10 other countries in signing a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership in March. Trump rejected the trade group.

"My hope on a NAFTA is we do find a common ground," Rometty said Thursday. "I've spent a lot of time as well on digital trade."

The IBM chief advocated for Trump to create "new collar" IT jobs, saying that IBM these days does not always require it's employees to have a college degree.

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