U.S. CEOs meet with Trump amid tension over travel ban, taxes

Washington DC, Feb 3, 2017 — Chief executives of major U.S. companies huddled with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday as the business community is increasingly split over how to respond to his policies, especially a travel ban announced last week.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon (L) as he hosts a strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major U.S. companies at the White House in Washington February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump kicked off the meeting with CEOs including Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase & Co and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo Inc, saying the group would discuss peeling back banking rules and declaring that companies would bring new jobs to the United States.

Chief executives including Elon Musk of Tesla Inc have said they planned to raise objections at the talks to Trump’s week-old executive order halting travel to the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Business leaders have been divided in their approach on taxes and immigration, and some are wary of working with a president who uses his platform to attack companies that vex him, such as threatening penalties for manufacturing outside the United States.

The leaders, which also included Mary Barra of General Motors Co and Jim McNerney, formerly of Boeing Co, are part of a business advisory panel Trump announced in December. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit the group under pressure from activists over the order. Musk defended his own decision to participate, saying that going to the meeting did not mean he agreed with Trump’s actions.

Tech companies, which have broad concerns about Trump’s immigration plans, raised the sharpest outcry among firms at the travel ban.

The White House said in a statement on Thursday evening that did not mention Uber that Trump “understands the importance of an open dialogue with fellow business leaders to discuss how to best make our nation’s economy stronger.”

Executives from Ford Motor Co also criticized the ban, but others, including General Motors and JPMorgan Chase have not taken a position.

On Friday, former General Electric Co leader Jack Welch said on his way into the White House that he expected immigration would come up.
SPLIT ON TAX REFORM

Trump has also met with executives from the U.S. pharmaceutical and auto industries as part of a push to step up U.S. job creation.

Division in the corporate world is also developing over taxes. Boeing Co and General Electric on Thursday joined a group in support of a congressional plan to tax all imports. But that plan, which does not have universal support among Republicans, is opposed by many U.S. retailers, which say it could raise prices for consumers.

Republican leaders say tax reform is a top priority, but they have acknowledged it could take until the end of 2017 or longer to finish legislation.

“If I were a company, I’d be worried about tax reform,” said Bernie Williams, chief investment officer at USAA Investment Solutions, in San Antonio.

The White House meeting with the group is also set to cover trade, regulatory relief and infrastructure. – Reuters