America’s Competitors Angle for Silicon Valley’s Business
By KIRK SEMPLE and IAN AUSTEN
Aug 2 2017
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — With his frequent refrains about Mexicans and the need for a wall to contain them, it’s no surprise that President Trump has made few friends in Mexico.
Yet here in the capital of Jalisco State, sometimes referred to as Mexico’s Silicon Valley, people are practically celebrating him.
“He’s helping us a lot!” Gov. Aristóteles Sandoval exclaimed. “He’s put us on the world’s agenda.”
As part of Mr. Trump’s efforts to push an America-first philosophy, he has vowed to restrict the availability of special visas that are widely used by technology companies to hire talent from around the world.
Mr. Trump’s plans, combined with an American political climate that has left many immigrants feeling less welcome, has cast a pall of uncertainty over the American tech industry, which relies heavily on highly skilled workers from abroad.
But while entrepreneurs and executives in the United States are fretting, other countries — including Mexico, Canada and China — are salivating over the Trump administration’s rumblings.
Silicon Valley’s loss, they say, could be their gain.
In recent months, foreign governments and tech industry leaders have sought to capitalize on the uncertainty in Silicon Valley. They are stepping up their efforts to attract engineers and entrepreneurs who might rely on the special American visa program, known as H-1B, to work or to run businesses in the United States.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Brad Duguid, the minister of economic development in Ontario, where the capital, Toronto, is one of Canada’s biggest tech hubs. “And while it’s unfortunate that the U.S. is looking more internally, far be it from us not to take advantage of that.”
In June, Canada set up a new visa program that makes it easier for companies to recruit highly skilled foreign workers. Under the program, which was in development before Mr. Trump’s election victory, the Canadian government has promised to approve two-year visas in less than two weeks — blindingly fast, compared with the process in the United States.
And unlike the H-1B visa in the United States, there is no limit to the number of Canadian visas available.
Beyond that, Ontario is in the early stages of preparing a social media campaign for technology executives around the world to sell the province as a place for investment.
“Canada is seizing its moment,” said Navdeep Singh Bains, the country’s federal minister of innovation, science and economic development. “We’re open to trade and people.”
In Mexico, states with growing regional tech hubs, like Jalisco, have been redoubling their efforts to attract talent and investment in recent months, peddling a philosophy of openness that departs from what Mr. Sandoval called Mr. Trump’s “xenophobia” and “lack of global vision.”
The efforts have included visits by Jalisco officials to the San Francisco Bay Area and to Europe. The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed piece by Mr. Sandoval pitching the advantages of doing business in his state.
The officials herald Mexico’s proximity to Silicon Valley, its alignment with time zones in the United States and its lower cost of living. They are also sweetening the invitation with enticements like tax incentives and promises of full government cooperation.