Telecom Equipment Sovereignty Is Central to U.S. Strategic Autonomy—Speech by President XX

Robert D. Atkinson January 12, 2022
January 12, 2022

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Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to speak about our Digital Agenda—a topic that has a profound effect on our common future. And a topic, during this pandemic, that’s having such an immediate impact on how we do business, how we govern, and how we go about our daily lives.

Digital is one of the two pillars, with climate change, of our U.S. transformation strategy. A strategy conceived and launched well before any of us had heard of COVID-19. And this pandemic is making our digital strategy more necessary than ever.

Today I want to focus on why our Digital Agenda is crucial to our U.S. strategic autonomy. Then I’d like to say a few words on how our Digital strategy can help us get there.

What do we mean by “strategic autonomy”?

It means more resilience, more influence. And less dependence. The U.S. is the number one trading powerhouse in the world. We have negotiated significant trade agreements with other major economies and regional blocks. We are an open market economy. And we believe trade is beneficial to our economy and our population.  

But strategic autonomy is about being able to make choices. We want greater autonomy and greater independence in an open and global environment. This means reducing our dependencies, to better defend our interests and values. We want a more level playing field and fairness in today’s globalized world.

Interdependence is natural, even desirable. Over-dependence, however, is not. So, strategic autonomy has nothing to do with protectionism. On the contrary.

COVID has shone a brutal spotlight into every corner of our societies. It has revealed our strengths, but also our weaknesses. This is particularly true where our over-dependence makes us vulnerable. For example, in healthcare, the supply of face masks or critical medical equipment. Or in the digital sector—the supply of 5G and other telecom equipment.

Strategic autonomy does not mean producing everything ourselves. This is neither desirable nor realistic. We don’t seek to be stronger to be more self-centered—quite the opposite. We want to be strong, independent, and confident to look outwards, beyond our borders—to contribute to a better, fairer and greener world.   

No strategic autonomy without telecom equipment sovereignty

You know, better than most, telecom equipment sovereignty plays a pivotal role in our greater goal of strategic autonomy. I won’t lecture you on business or technical issues—you are the specialists. But it might be useful for you to hear how we—U.S. leaders—frame our telecom equipment agenda in the global context.

Huge opportunities

The world is on the brink of the next stage of the fourth industrial revolution. The United States has enormous potential in the fields of telecom equipment, computer-enabled machine tools, industrial data systems, and advanced automobiles. But unfortunately, the United States is dangerously digitally dependent on the  EU in all of these areas. Nokia and Ericsson, what many refer to as “NE,” dominate the U.S. telecom equipment market. This kind of digital dependency is simply not acceptable. Indeed, there is a growing sense of a “neocolonial” dependence on EU telecom equipment companies.

Strengths

The U.S. has real policy strengths and potentials. But let's not be naïve. Competition, one of the oldest competencies of the United States, can elevate our standards and develop our U.S. interests. In other words, we can use antitrust to regulate and break up the NE (Nokia and Ericsson). In addition, we are proposing a TMA (Telecom Markets Act) that would target big telecom equipment gatekeepers with more than $22 billion in global revenues. (For those who say that this unfairly targets EU companies—Nokia’s revenue is $23 billion—I say that this is nonsense.)

Finally, the same could be said about tax. In the United States, this remains mainly a national competence. It’s a sensitive topic. But we should impose special 5G equipment taxes in a way that levies them on equipment companies, but not on emerging ORAN companies (where the United States has a real strength). After all, why should the profitable NE make profits in the United States and keep them in Europe? It’s no longer acceptable nor sustainable that companies make huge profits in a market without paying taxes where they operate.

Finally, we need to build up our competitors to NE. That is why I am announcing a $10 billion “Tellus” initiative to build up American telecom equipment companies, and the EU companies will not be allowed to participate.

And while we are at it, we need to defend our auto sovereignty. After all Volkswagen Daimler, and BMW (VDBMW) dominate the global auto market and act as colonialists in our great nation. This is why I propose that we immediately increase our auto import tariffs to match the higher EU levels. Moreover, I call for an immediate ban on any transfer of data from the VDBMW cars operating in the U.S. to Europe. After all, the privacy of driving is a core human right, and we don’t want EU intelligence agencies tracking American drivers.

These are all issues that should be settled in the framework of international cooperation. Like I said earlier, there are currently several global models of digital development and governance. Between an unregulated model and a state-controlled model (EU), we Americans promote a human-centric, ethics-based approach that serves our citizens.

Our ambition is to lead the way and work with partners to deliver a rulebook for the telecom equipment economy. And now, we have a fresh opportunity to forge a joint EU-US tech agenda. A consensus is emerging—on both sides of the Atlantic—that 5G and telecom equipment companies have the potential to threaten our common democratic values.

We are currently reaching out to stakeholders both in the US and EU to explain our goals. To set fair rules and ensure online businesses respect US fundamental rights and values when operating in our market. And also to tackle other pressing issues like cybersecurity.

We are determined to take up these challenges with the EU and all other willing partners. However, if necessary, we are ready to lead the way on our own.

Let’s make America a 5G and smart car powerhouse. Thank you.

Note: This is a parody of EU President Charles Michel’s recent speech.