CEOs Still in the Spotlight as Trump Gets Down to Business

GettyImages-589574154-compressorDonald Trump has offered some red meat to CEOs concerned his inauguration speech lacked details of his pro-business agenda, though his renewed calls to slash taxes and regulation have continued to come with a sting in the tail.

Keeping CEOs very much in the limelight during his first days in office, the president got things rolling Monday by telling a dozen company leaders at the White House that he will slash regulations by at least 75% and reduce taxes “massively”. But he also continued to warn that those making products overseas would face “a very major” border tax.

Later in the day, Trump removed America’s signature from the Transpacific Trade Partnership with Pacific Rim nations, indicating he has little intention of wavering from his protectionist campaign trail pledges.

“I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious on making sure that the United States economy is going to be strong and have policies—tax, regulatory or trade—to drive that.

Up next will be a meeting Tuesday morning with the CEOs of Detroit’s three largest auto companies: Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler. The meeting will examine “how to bring more jobs back to the industry”, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

One CEO who attended Monday’s meeting, Ford’s Mark Fields, said it was “very positive” for the country and the manufacturing industry in general.

“I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious on making sure that the United States economy is going to be strong and have policies—tax, regulatory or trade—to drive that,” he said. “And I think that encourages all of us as CEOs as we make decisions going forward.”

Ford has already reneged on a plan to build a small car manufacturing facility in Mexico, though Fields has said the decision mostly owed to dwindling small car sales.

Among others attending the manufacturing advisory council meeting were the CEOs of Lockheed Martin, Tesla, Dell, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson and Under Armour.

The president asked them to present within 30 days a “series of actions” to stimulate the manufacturing sector, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris said. Trump and CEOs discussed his border tax proposal, though Liveris said the president isn’t going to harm competitiveness.

“He’s going to actually make us all more competitive, recognizing there’s a transition here,” he told reporters. “You can’t get things done overnight.”

Trump plans to meet with Mexican president Peña Nieto next Tuesday, according to his press office.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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