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America needs to be the No. 1 tech industry in the world, according to Trump’s small business leader Linda McMahon

The government should help, but the private sector needs to lead the way.

Linda McMahon with Kara Swisher at Code Conference 2018 Asa Mathat
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

The U.S. needs to lead the way in tech, according to Linda MacMahon, President Donald Trump’s leader for the Small Business Administration. The way the private and public sector will work together to get there, however, is a matter of debate.

“America needs to be the No. 1 tech industry in the world, and we need to continue to invest in that,” she said onstage at Recode’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., on Tuesday. McMahon — who was appointed by Trump to lead the Small Business Administration in 2016 — spoke about the role she sees the government taking in helping small tech businesses bring their innovations to market.

“I think there should be a partnership with private sector, but typically, the private sector leads the way,” said McMahon, who co-founded World Wrestling Entertainment. She said her agency gave the Small Business Innovation Research program, which funds small businesses to conduct research and development, $2.5 billion last year.

McMahon also addressed Trump’s actions on immigration and diversity, something the tech industry has publicly clashed with the president on.

When asked, for example, if Trump’s past comments have affected her work, McMahon said, “The Donald Trump that I have known before he was president had great diversity within his companies ... and as far as the SBA goes, we have a very diverse environment not only within the people working there but within the programs.” She also pointed out that a third of SBA’s loans last year went to women and about 41 percent of loans went to minorities.

When asked why the Trump administration is ending the International Entrepreneur Rule that allowed foreign entrepreneurs to legally build their companies in the U.S., McMahon was less prepared — saying she couldn’t comment because she wasn’t familiar with the rule.

“As the head of the SBA, you’re not familiar?” pressed Axios’ Ina Fried, who asked the initial question.

“Not with that particular rule,” said McMahon.

Watch the full interview:

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