Trump to brainstorm with CEOs on job policies at White House

(Bloomberg) – U.S. President Donald Trump has summoned some of America’s most prominent corporate executives to the White House Thursday, and he intends to put them to work.

Trump is planning on splitting the group of executives -– which includes Johnson & Johnson’s chief executive officer, Alex Gorsky, and David Farr, chairman of Emerson Electric Co. –- into working groups to come up with recommendations on how to craft new policies on taxes, job creation and trade that the new president says are needed to jump-start the U.S. economy.

Ahead of the meeting, Business Roundtable, the lobbying group for U.S. corporate executives, sent a letter to Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn laying out 16 regulations of top concern to its members. The letter touches on everything from the Affordable Care Act to net neutrality to environmental regulations -- but also hints at CEO concerns about the economic impacts of Trump immigration and trade policy.

Trump announced in December he was forming an advisory panel on manufacturing led by Dow Chemical Co. Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris. They’ve met at least once already, three days after Trump took office in January.

At Thursday’s meeting, the White House plans to solicit recommendations on deregulation, workforce training, infrastructure, taxes, and trade. Vice President Mike Pence and White House aides will meet with the individual working groups and compile their recommendations for the president ahead of his meeting with the full group of executives.

‘Job Creators’

"As a successful businessman himself, the president knows that if we’re going to get the country back to work, we need to hear directly from job creators what is holding them back and, where appropriate, take steps to remove the barriers," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday. Spicer didn’t say which CEOs would participate.

Topping the Business Roundtable list is a 2015 move by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone, as well as EPA limits on new coal-fired power plants and expanded jurisdiction over state waters. The list also includes overtime regulations; Dodd-Frank provisions including CEO pay ratio disclosure, conflict minerals disclosure rules and margin requirements for uncleared swaps; and employer reporting and tax requirements under the Affordable Care Act.. In addition, the group is seeking expedited export controls and tightening eligibility and increasing exclusions for shareholder proposals.

Cumulative Impact

“While some of the listed regulations in isolation may not appear significant to growth, their cumulative effect has drained resources from innovation and job creation and directed them to non-value adding administrative and bureaucratic activities,” said the letter, signed by Mark Costa, the chairman and chief executive officer for Eastman Chemical Co. who leads Business Roundtable’s smart regulation committee.

At the same time, the letter said that as the administration "considers new policies with regard to immigration or the expansion of ‘Buy America’ requirements, Business Roundtable stands ready to assist to prevent unintended consequences that would inhibit the ability for U.S. companies to drive economic growth and be globally competitive.”

Trump has used previous meetings with companies to encourage corporate leaders to build their products in the U.S., offering tax breaks and lower regulation to bring down costs -- and warning that he wants to raise tariffs on products produced overseas. The heads of labor organizations, automotive firms, national retail chains, drug companies, and airlines are all among the groups who have met with Trump in the West Wing in recent weeks.

Made in America

"As you can tell by the structure of the meeting, the president is expecting these interactions to lead to real action being taken by the administration," Spicer said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Trump would address his plans to overhaul the tax code, which he has said he will deliver within weeks, or a border-adjustment tax proposal under consideration by House Republicans, which would shift the tax burden from exporters to importers.

Republican leaders in the House, including Speaker Paul Ryan, argue a border-adjustment tax would benefit American manufacturing while providing revenue to make up for losses from reducing corporate tax rates. Several manufacturers, including Dow Chemical, are actively lobbying for the plan, which Trump has called "too complicated." Opponents, including net importers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., oppose it and warn it will raise taxes on American consumers.

Farr is planning to attend the meeting on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group representing 14,000 member companies.

Farr and other board members of the association are planning a national tour of factories over the coming weeks to promote policy changes they hope to see from the Trump administration and Congress. The tour will feature stops at the facilities of companies including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Anheuser-Busch Inbev.

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