Gary Shapiro runs the Consumer Technology Association, which organises the CES trade show

Government shutdown ’embarrassing’ to US tech industry

Gary Shapiro runs the Consumer Technology Association, which organises the CES trade show

The ongoing US government shutdown is an embarrassment to the country’s technology industry, a leading figure has said.

Several government officials had to pull out of attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a trade event which begins this week, because of the current political stalemate.

“I don’t imagine a lot of people who are making these decisions in Washington are even aware of the ramifications,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the show.

Mr Shapiro said he hoped stock market turbulence would put pressure on the US and China to reach an agreement on trade tariffs soon.

However, he added: “I’m not totally convinced that President Trump wants an agreement with the Chinese.”

The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The CTA advocates for more than 2,000 technology firms, and counts Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Sony and many others among its membership.

CES is the largest trade show of its kind in the world. Scheduled to attend were a number of high ranking government figures, including Ajit Pai, the head of the US telecoms regulator. At least 10 officials had to withdraw, citing the government shutdown which has been in place since 22 December.

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“As an American I am not thrilled that my own government can’t get its act together,” Mr Shapiro told the BBC.

“It’s embarrassing to be on the world stage with a dominant event in the world of technology, and our federal government – who had planned to send quite a significant delegation of top-ranking people – can’t be there to host their colleague government executives from around the world.”

“We like to be proud of our country, and sometimes we struggle.”

He said he was optimistic next year’s show would be different, and that current negotiations over trade tariffs would be resolved.

Last week, Apple said the struggling Chinese economy meant it had earned significantly less than predicted in the final three months of 2018. The news sent Apple’s stock plummeting – so too other tech firms deemed to be vulnerable.

Mr Shapiro said part of the problem may be changing attitudes towards American products.

“There’s a lot of social media in China which is not embracing the United States, its companies and its products,” he said.

Despite the tensions, Mr Shapiro said there was no discernible difference between the number of Chinese companies deciding to exhibit at CES. The country represents around 40% of the firms at the show.

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