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January 08, 2004
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ARCHIVE: Consumer Electronics Show

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This holiday season the average American bought 7 electronic products according to the Consumer Electronics Association. And if you like gadgets, well this is the place to be. The Association is kicking off it's annual trade show in Las Vegas this morning. One-hundred thousand buyers and sellers sift through chips to clothing to meet every electronic-related need. But as KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports the industry is facing serious international challenges.

This holiday season the average American bought seven electronic products according to the Consumer Electronics Association. And if you like gadgets, well this is the place to be. The association is kicking off its annual trade show today.

100,000 buyers and sellers sift through chips to clothing to meet every electronic-related need. But the industry faces some serious challenges internationally.

Many international business deals start at the annual trade show, but CEA president Gary Shapiro says post 9-11 visa policies are preventing many legitimate business-people from even making it to the show. They're either denied visas or deterred by the long process of applications and interviews to get that visa:

I believe we are facing an economic threat as a country from our own citizens' abilities to sell our products and to reach international buyers abroad.

The show is refunding the registration fees for a number of Chinese businesspeople that were denied visas. Meanwhile Shapiro says Asian business is going where it is welcome and buying electronics from Europe instead.

Despite the restrictions he says that consumer electronics have enhance the lives of citizens around the world and have brought us closer together - but not issuing visas to businesspeople is threatening U.S. participation in the global industry.

It is people who are trying to reach international buyers and it is also heavy equipment people who need foreign buyers to look at the equipment, learn how to service it. If they can't get here then the U.S. is loosing business and it is a growing problem for the United States right now.

But America still has its niche in the market according to Skip Pizzi, Program Manager in the Windows Division of Microsoft.

Where we do most of our exporting is in the development and not so much the production and manufacture. We are sort of an intellectual property vendor rather than an actual physical hardware exporter.

Pizzi adds that technology that brings people of the world together could tear them apart in the future as governments are developing restrictions on who can use what.

Digital televisions that work here in the U.S. but not anywhere else, even digital radios that would work in Canada but not the U.S. I mean as much as that close, that kind of a border and distinction.

While formats, content rights, visas and development of intellectual property concern the U.S., Asian electronics producers continue to dominate the physical market. The U.S. gets more than 20 percent of its products from Asian countries. It bought $21 billion worth of audio and video products alone last year, and that doesn't include cell phone and computer products.

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