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CES: Summit for Innovation and Economic Comeback

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This week, the International CES is underway in Las Vegas, showcasing the newest innovations in consumer electronics.

The tradeshow will host more than 125,000 innovators, entrepreneurs, marketers and technology enthusiasts in what has become the largest gathering for consumer technology in the world. The CES also attracts government leaders from around the globe, including two U.S. cabinet secretaries and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

For more than three decades, CES has played host to the unveiling of countless game-changing innovations including the VCR, camcorder, CD player, DVD player, HD radio, Internet-enabled television, 3D television, and augmented-reality video games.

As we enter this new decade, it is my hope that the excitement of CES, and the celebration of innovation, will serve as a signal that the U.S. economy is turning the corner after a difficult two years.

We're all ready for the great American comeback. It's time we restore our faith that democracy and technology can bring long-lasting peace and prosperity, if actively nurtured and governed by a public-private partnership committed to change.

At a time when politics has divided our nation, here is an area where we can unite: 96 percent of Americans believe innovation is important to the future of the nation, found a recent Zogby poll. In the same poll, 74 percent identified either small businesses or entrepreneurs as "most critical" to the future of the economy.

The entrepreneur, wrote the economist Joseph Schumpeter, is "the pivot on which everything turns." These business revolutionaries, many of whom will be at CES this week, are the agents of change - their ideas bring new jobs and economic prosperity, and they push our society forward. But they cannot singlehandedly lead the comeback.

We need lawmakers who will support a pro-innovation, pro-entrepreneur economy by following the policy roadmap I set out in my new book, The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream, which debuted here on the opening day of CES:

*Embrace international trade and open markets. As Congress returns to session this month, it should move to pass three long-stalled trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that would add billions of dollars to the U.S. GDP.

*Modernize visas so that the best and the brightest can not only study in America but can also stay thereafter and work in America. Foreign-born entrepreneurs founded more than half of all Silicon Valley start-ups created in the past decade, and they are crucial to the success of our economy's next chapter.

*Unshackle entrepreneurs and small businesses from costly regulations. Congress should encourage capital formation and investment in young companies - not pass laws that favor lawyers and lobbyists over entrepreneurs and their investors.

*Cut the deficit. No more Cash for Clunkers and bank bailouts, and forget about earmarks. The federal deficit eats 11.2 percent of the U.S. GDP. Cutting it involves hard choices, but we have to do it to preserve the hope of the American Dream for our children.

If government leaders fail to make clear-cut policy decisions that spur job growth and foster innovation, America's economic recovery will continue to stagger.With so many policymakers and business leaders from around the world at CES to see the game-changing innovations and meet the entrepreneurs and innovators behind them, this week is our chance to kick-start the conversation.

Beginning this week, in partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, we added the "World Trade Center Las Vegas" name to the Las Vegas Convention Center. CEA is proud to own the rights to this powerful indicator of the importance of trade, and equally proud to be affixing it to the building that reinforces the message that tradeshows means global business.

Let's make this week the summit for change, the place where entrepreneurs and government work together to write the next chapter in the great American comeback.

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,000 technology companies and hosts the International CES. Shapiro is the author of The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.