Remarks at DC Blockchain Summit 2019

Remarks
Manisha Singh
Acting Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment 
Georgetown University
Washington, DC
March 6, 2019


As Delivered

Thank you Perianne for that warm welcome and thank you to your great team at the Chamber of Digital Commerce for hosting this important event on blockchain and distributed ledger technology. I am so honored to be here as part of the conversation.

As Perianne mentioned, I lead the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs with about 200 men and women here in Washington along with a team of over 1500 economic officers that are posted in our embassies around the world. Our mission is to promote American prosperity and American workers at home and abroad. In order to do this with maximum effectiveness, we strive to engage in conversations like this about industries that will define the future.

This is an extremely timely and relevant conversation. I am happy to share some of the State Department’s perspectives on blockchain technology and international policy coordination. One of our goals as policy makers is to better understand your perspectives on international opportunities and learn how we can better support continued U.S. engagement around the world in this emerging technology. We want to ensure that US companies remain leaders in innovation!

We’ve been engaged in discussions with the private sector to understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in export markets overseas. We want to hear about how we can attract more cutting-edge investment to the United States. We are certainly the most creative economy on the planet!

The Trump Administration is committed to lowering trade barriers overseas, protecting intellectual property and innovation and maintaining our technological edge. The digital economy and greater access to information have fueled economic growth and created more opportunities for U.S. firms and workers.

One of our most interesting private sector conversations was a few months ago when the Digital Chamber hosted us for a roundtable with their members on blockchain. The discussion gave us an opportunity to learn more about how this technology is advancing and how it can be better used to manage data flows. It seems we’ve just begun to explore the many ways in which blockchain could be harnessed in variety of settings, beyond crypto-currency to advance priorities such as cybersecurity.

Our discussion covered areas of regulatory friction in the United States and globally, including where the State Department can support and engage with the blockchain industry. The conversation also focused on how policy makers could help U.S. companies maintain competitiveness and enhance U.S. leadership on blockchain development.

We have seen that other countries have focused on certain applications, such as tracking the movement of goods in shipping, verifying identity in transactions and cross-border payments. In business, clearly blockchain technologies have the potential to play a major role in industries like healthcare, management and finance.

In the public sector, this technology could enable improvements to things like data collection for the U.S. census. It could streamline some of the basic functions of government for the benefit of the citizens we serve. And we all know that government can certainly be more efficient! It’s an opportunity to improve public trust and confidence in the information managed by the government.

We are closely following developments in this technology because we think it could define a future governed by how effectively we manage information, data and transactions.

As the State Department, we are watching how other nations are utilizing these technologies. We’re also paying attention to international organizations and how they are approaching the use of this technology. We would like to see humanitarian and development assistance spent more effectively and with better accountability. We think blockchain might be a tool to achieve this. We want to see other countries adopt a light touch and compatible regulations approach so that the private sector has room to innovate and perfect potential new uses for blockchain technology. As the government, sometimes the best thing we can do for you is stay out of the way.

Blockchain technology is becoming a global phenomenon, as we all know. It is therefore essential that we better understand this cutting-edge technology as it becomes more widely adopted in our economy.

Turning again to our role as diplomats, when we consider blockchain’s potential applications across all sectors, we should have a criteria in mind when we engage foreign governments.

These criteria are similar to the way we saw the internet economy develop. We’ll conduct oversight as necessary and ensure public protections, yet our overall goal is to understand the benefits of the open and decentralized nature of this technology. We need to work together bilaterally and multilaterally to create the right policy, legal and regulatory conditions across borders that will lead to economic growth, innovation and the development of new markets.

We understand the importance of a coordinated whole of government approach to ensuring American competitiveness in this technology. We very much appreciate the Digital Chamber providing us with a potential blueprint in their National Action Plan – it is something we are reviewing as a set of guiding principles to move forward with governments’ thoughts in this industry.

We are interested in partnering with every part of the blockchain ecosystem, including the private sector, academia, civil society and other groups as we address these very important issues. I have an excellent team at the State Department who spend a lot of time analyzing the digital economy. Let us know what challenges you are facing and how we can better support U.S. industry efforts. I thank you again for your time, and please know that we want to be partners in all of your success!