Joe Biden’s challenges of China, climate change and big tech

While the potential impeachment of Donald Trump continues to dominate the headlines, a close adviser for Joe Biden has revealed the three biggest challenges for the incoming President.

The incoming National Economic Council director has revealed how the country will tackle some of its biggest challenges, including climate change, China and big tech regulations.

Brian Deese said “massive quantums of private capital” will be used to combat climate change.

Mr Deese previously helped negotiate the Paris Agreement that the Trump Administration left, but which Mr Biden has committed to rejoining on his first day in office.

“When we think about the goals we are trying to accomplish, ultimately the way we are going to accelerate the decarbonisation of our economy is by moving massive quantums of private capital,” Mr Deese said in a conversation with Consumer Technology Association president and CEO Gary Shapiro during the all-digital Consumer Electronics Show.

“One of the ways to do that is provide certain, long-term signals so the allocaters of that capital can have confidence it makes more sense to invest in the low carbon solution, not only because it’s more cost efficient today but because it’s going to be more cost efficient five to 10 years from now.”

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Earlier, Mr Deese had said the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be the primary focus of the administration for at least the first few months, provided “a unique opportunity to restore science to our basic decision making in general”.

Mr Deese said the Biden Administration is “going to take some approaches that are going to really focus on US jobs, US competitiveness and investing here in the United States”, saying the country had not been investing and resourcing its homegrown technology and innovation industries enough.

This could be in the form of promoting the construction of renewable energy infrastructure and the development of improved technology for same.

Mr Shapiro said the technology industry was looking forward to what is expected to be a less mercurial administration.

“I think the business community is looking towards more steadiness and predictability rather than waking up and reading a Twitter feed and seeing how your business life is going to change,” Mr Shapiro said.

The ongoing US-China trade disputes were exacerbated by things like Mr Trump announcing tariff hikes on Twitter.

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Mr Deese didn’t rule out keeping or eliminating tariffs but noted there was “a lack of coherent strategy and the application of tools in a way that doesn’t actually add up”.

He said the Biden Administration will look at its overall strategy and objectives before deciding on what steps to take with China, America’s “most serious global competitor” which poses “one of the central challenges of this century”.

Mr Deese said Mr Biden’s vision is “to rebuild our cores of strength in the United States” as well as focus on plans to “revitalise our alliances and our partnerships around the world”.

“So our allies will become our allies again?” Mr Shapiro asked.

Mr Deese said there was “work to do across the board”.

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“We are going to start from the perspective that we want to sit down with our allies to work through these issues” which will also make it easier to “put pressure on Beijing and hold them accountable, when they are violating the rules”.

But he also hinted at plans to take on some of America and the world’s most valuable companies: The Big Tech firms that are currently facing a variety of different backlashes ranging from the spread of misinformation and its impacts on democracy, potential curtailing of the American right to free speech and how much tax those companies pay and how they treat their employees.

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Mr Shapiro noted there was “bipartisan” interest in regulating the tech industry but was also quick to point out that as a representative of the industry “we’re not against regulation”.

Mr Deese also revealed Mr Biden believed there were “areas where the regulatory architecture doesn’t capture the needs of the economy and the Administration will be working with Congress to address those”.

It’s likely this was a reference to Section 230 of the telecommunications act, a 24-year-old law that absolves Facebook and Twitter of responsibility for what appears on their site but which some argue also prevents them removing any content that appears on their platforms.

Mr Shapiro said the rest of the world had caught on to technology the US had started and was now penalising the companies that provided it with new regulations and taxes.

He didn’t specifically name Australia but our consumer watchdog has been probing the actions of companies like Facebook and Google, filing a number of court actions over recent months against both, as well as proposing what could be world-first regulations on the companies that other countries around the world are closely watching.

Mr Deese maintained the companies still had work to do.

“They have an obligation to address significant, persistent challenges that are real … that we see consumers and the American people being concerned about as well.

“There’s an opportunity here but also an obligation on companies to be more thoughtful about how they’re treating their workforce, how they deal with the data they operate with and recognising there are stakeholders other than the shareholder that are important and essential for their long-term profitability and their licence to operate.”

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