Key Thought Leaders from Government and Industry Come Together to Promote a Coordinated Strategy for Blockchain Technology –  A Read Out on the Day’s Discussion


November 4, 2019

On Thursday, October 24, the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Center for Financial Markets and Policy at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, in coordination with the Institute of International Economic Law at Georgetown University Law Center and the Chamber of Digital Commerce, co-hosted a Roundtable to discuss American competitiveness and the role of the Unites States’ leadership in technological innovation.

Thought leaders from government, academia, and industry gathered to examine the policy issues facing the industry, as well as global developments and how other nations are approaching the promotion and adoption of blockchain technology. They particularly noted the comparison between U.S. blockchain innovation policy and what other nations are doing to capitalize on this opportunity, including the promotion of policies that encourage adoption.

This event was a key step in realizing the Chamber’s National Action Plan for Blockchain, which calls on the U.S. Government to support the private sector’s development of blockchain technology in the U.S. and provides a set of guiding principles for government as it considers how to best support blockchain technology. James Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services at the U.S. Department of Commerce, supported this endeavor by saying that, “The mission of the International Trade Administration is to help create the conditions for U.S. industries to compete—both at home and abroad. To that end, we must encourage policies that promote blockchain innovation by American entrepreneurs and the U.S. private sector, to ensure that our products and services remain the best and most desired around the globe.”

Some in the group agreed that U.S. policy makers must allow innovation while simultaneously addressing associated policy considerations and risks, and tailor regulatory frameworks accordingly. One participant, Brett McDowell, Founding Executive Director and Vice Chair of the Hedera Hashgraph Governing Council, said, “This is the American way – embracing the promise of new technologies, and the opportunities they create, by supporting responsible innovation and growth so that emerging U.S.-based companies can compete in this global industry.”

Key takeaways from the Roundtable include:

The U.S. Needs a Predictable Legal Environment. Roundtable participant Jack Kiernan, Manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP, said, “The United States is home to the highest caliber global innovators. The challenge is providing these minds with a favorable regulatory environment in which to operate. The same ‘do no harm’ ethos that was applied to the development of the internet should be applied to the implementation of Blockchain and associated technologies.” The problem is, as Kevin Batteh, Partner at Delta Strategy Group, stated, “It’s not just one regulation you can point at that is preventing people from doing business in the U.S. It’s the attitude across many of our regulators. When you look at the climate here in the U.S., there’s a cold wind blowing. Overseas, it’s not just about providing regulatory clarity, though some regulators have. Our competitors overseas are rolling out the red carpet because they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to attract innovators.” As Jamison Sites, Senior Manager – Washington National Tax at RSM US, said, “We need to be more proactive than a Do No Harm approach.” Overseas, other countries are proactively trying to attract the best and brightest talent through clear regulatory frameworks, government pilot programs, and other strategies.

We Need a Plan to Promote Blockchain Technology. To realize the true potential of this technology, many in the group suggested that the U.S. Government develop a strategic and thoughtful approach that considers the importance of the many technological advancements in blockchain out there today and those on the horizon, as well as potential risks, and develop a strategy for moving the U.S. forward. According to Wendy Henry, Blockchain Lead of US Government and Public Services at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “This is not about the opportunity to lead in blockchain innovation. It’s about the new normal. We have to think more broadly about the world that we’re creating and where we want to be in it.” Jeffery Brown, Chief Technology Analyst at Bonner and Partners, warned, “The Chinese Government is working on launching a digital Renminbi before the end of the year and they are working in partnership with the private sector. The China equivalents of Amazon, Google, and Facebook are providing the digital infrastructure to issue this currency providing the ability to launch in a matter of days or weeks, not years. We have a lack of urgency in the United States. Capital flight is not three years down the road – it started last year. Billions of dollars have been moving off shore that would have been invested here. We must have a sense of urgency.”