Trump’s war on immigration is sacrificing his best weapon against China

The world’s most precious resource is not oil. It is not water. Nor is it data.

The world’s most precious resource is talent. In the 21st-century knowledge economy, a country’s ability to attract, educate and train, and deploy talented people is the most important factor in its economic success.

Unfortunately, the current administration does not appear to understand this. At the same time President Trump relentlessly complains about China taking advantage of the US, our actions are allowing China and others to catch up in the race for top global talent.

Many of our structural issues pre-exist Trump, but his regulatory changes, bureaucratic maneuvers, and, above all, rhetoric toward immigrants have exacerbated the problem. No one is happier about this than China.

That talent has always been critical to our success is true to some degree. The internal-combustion engine did not invent itself. Military geniuses reshaped national borders. But talent’s importance has become paramount as business and economic growth has come to rely more on ideas and innovation than the production and movement of physical materials.

America’s experience shows just how valuable global talent is — and how much the immigration of talented individuals can transform a nation’s capacity for innovation.

In my recent book, “The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society,” I tabulate contributions ranging from the Nobel Prize to college-educated workers: America nabbed 57% of migrating inventors during 2000-2010 and 53% of migrating researchers since 1900 who would one day receive the Nobel Prize.

By William R. Kerr for BUSINESS INSIDE

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