Monday, August 3, 2020

Trump bans Feds from contracting H-1B workers and makes telehealth the new normal | The Register

US president Donald Trump spent much of his Monday on matters impacting the technology industry.

The most exceptional announcement was that he expects any sale of TikTok to a US company must be accompanied by a finder’s fee of sorts paid to the US Treasury.

“The United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we are making it possible,” Trump said at a press conference today. “I use the expression, it’s like the landlord and the tenant and without the lease the tenant doesn’t have the value. Well we are sort of in a certain way, the lease. We make it possible to have this great success. TikTok is a tremendous success, but a big portion of it’s in this country.”

Asked if the sum should be paid by TikTok parent company ByteDance, or by a US company that buys the social network, Trump said he’s happy for either arrangement.

“It would come from the sale, whatever the number is, it would come from the sale,” he said, adding: “Which nobody else would be thinking about than me, but that’s the way I think. I think it is very fair.”

He added that whoever buys TikTok: “It has got to be American security, it has got to be owned here, we don’t want any problems with security.”

He then added that he perceives “A lot of excitement” about the prospect of a TikTok sale, “not only from Microsoft but from other companies.”

While many nations regulate inbound foreign investment and most issue paid licences to operate certain businesses, Trump’s suggestion that the USA be paid a fee for allowing the deal to proceed is without precedent in trade and antirust matters.

Tech was also on Trump’s mind when he issued a new "Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers” that prevents the US government from contracting with firms that use workers who come to the USA on temporary visas. The executive order also calls for “ … the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security shall take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders at job sites.”

H-1B visas are offered to skilled workers and Trump stopped accepting fresh applications for them in June 2020 on grounds that the COVID-caused economic downturn means US citizens should not have to compete for employment opportunities at this time.

Trump has also long-argued that H-1B visas drive down salaries, a theme he returned to today at an event featuring American technology workers who said temporary visas have negatively impacted their careers.

Also on Monday, the president issued another executive order to make arrangements that extend access to telehealth during the coronavirus a permanent feature of the USA’s health system. The change was framed as a boon for rural communities. ®


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