US President-elect Donald Trump and some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful executives have met at his Manhattan tower — a summit convened to smooth over frictions after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.
The meeting was expected to focus on economic issues and skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Mr Trump — including on immigration, the trade relationship with China and digital privacy — in favour of a focus on shared priorities, sources said.
“There’s nobody like the people in this room, and anything we can do to help this go along we’re going to do that for you,” Mr Trump told the executives gathered in a conference room on the 25th floor of Trump Tower.
“You call my people, you call me, it doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command.”
President-elect Donald Trump
Three of Mr Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka, sat at the head of a large rectangular table as the meeting began.
Their attendance may fuel further concern about potential conflicts of interests for Mr Trump, who has said he would hand over control of his business empire to his children while he occupies the White House.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also in attendance. Guests sat in front of paper name plates and bottles of water sporting the Trump brand logo.
The meeting between tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s Elon Musk, took place as Trump has alarmed some US corporations with his rhetoric challenging long-established policy toward China, a main market for Silicon Valley.
In the run up to the election the sides made no secret of their disdain for each other, with the notable exception of Facebook board member and billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, whose backing of Mr Trump’s candidacy has paid off for him.
He is now in charge of forming tech policy for the new administration.
But there are signs that the bumpy lead–up may be overlooked as the Trump transition team builds an economic advisory board, today announcing that it will include Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty had already been appointed.
The meeting today may skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Mr Trump – including immigration, trade relationships with China and other nations, and digital privacy — in favour of a focus on shared priorities, sources said.
“If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation, and negotiate better trade deals, the US technology community will be stronger and more competitive than ever,” Oracle Chief Executive Safra Catz, who will attend the meeting, said in a statement.
At the same time, more than 600 employees of technology companies have pledged in an open letter to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.
Neveragain.tech has been signed by engineers, designers, business executives, and others whose jobs include managing or processing data about people.
“We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies.” the letter says.
We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.
Signatories include employees from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple.
— SPLC (@splcenter) December 14, 2016
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges.
He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.
“You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,” he told Reuters in an interview in May.