Tech heads sound optimistic note after Trump meetings

Tech heads sound optimistic note after Trump meetings

President Trump and his administration earned some goodwill from the technology industry after his “tech week” initiative this week.

Tech leaders and representatives spoke favorably of their interactions with Trump and his administration after their meetings, noting that officials seemed sympathetic to their positions on regulation, immigration reform and tax policy.

The administration's receptiveness to certain industry positions has stoked a degree of confidence that the two will be able to cooperate in some areas, despite major political differences.

Trump tried to see eye to eye with the executives during one meeting, reportedly telling them that he was pushing the Senate to put “more heart” into the GOP healthcare bill than the version that passed in the House, according to Axios.

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Trump’s comment was part of a larger trend during a week that the administration dedicated to technology issues – and tech representatives in attendance at events this week said they appreciated the effort.

"I think there’s a general belief [among those in the meeting] that this can be resolved in an effective way," VMware CEO Patrick Gelsinger said regarding high-skilled immigration reform, one of the topics discussed in Trump's meeting with CEOs on Monday.

"There was strong messaging from the president in this regard that he gets it," Gelsinger said.

Others praised a meeting that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn held Tuesday with leaders from trade associations representing tech and telecom interests to discuss tax reform.

“I think today’s tax meeting surprised a lot of the people in the room by the granularity with which the administration spoke and the confidence they have in getting tax reform done, and getting it done this year,” one industry source familiar with the meeting told The Hill on Tuesday.

“It became very clear that they have done several listening sessions and know where businesses stand on tax reform.”

TechNet’s president and CEO Linda Moore, who attended the meeting, described the White House as having a “receptive ear” to tech issues like tax reform and digital trade. She told The Hill on Friday that her organization was hopeful that “the White House's tech week will translate into meaningful, pro-innovation action."

Some tech leaders showered Trump with praise directly during a meeting in the East Room of the White House on Thursday thta focused on drones, the so-called "Internet of Things," wireless broadband infrastructure and entrepreneurship financing.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert thanked Trump for “the administration’s open mindedness to the regulatory environment.” General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt also thanked the president and his team with their help closing a $575 million locomotive deal in Egypt.

The CEO of the drone startup PrecisionHawk told Trump he had been doing a “great job.” In a session with reporters after the meeting, executives of other drone companies in the meeting continued to laud the administration's seeming willingness to heed their calls for deregulation.

Companies do have an interest in maintaining a friendly rapport with the president. Amazon, Intel and Palantir, all of which attended Monday’s meeting, have contracts with the federal government.

AT&T and other wireless company’s rollout of 5G can be helped or hindered by changes in government regulations, something that the telecom company told Trump during a product demonstration in the meeting. Drone companies are also reliant on the Federal Aviation Administration's policies.

Despite the seemingly positive interactions, core points of division remain between the White House and Silicon Valley.

Tech leaders were furious with Trump's decision early this month to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. The administration is also still fighting a legal battle to institute a ban on foreign nationals entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries and the administration rolled back transgender bathroom protections, both of which tech has opposed.

The Tech Workers Coalition, a budding Silicon Valley labor group, chastised tech executives for continuing to work with Trump during events this tech week despite his commitment to these position.

The group noted that while CEOs in Silicon Valley might see value in speaking with the administration on issues like tax repatriation a more business-friendly regulations, many tech workers voices would still be left out.

“When these executives continue to work with Trump, they collaborate with an administration that puts down workers, threatens immigrant families, denies our right to universal healthcare, opposes fair wages across job titles, and supports an agenda of perpetual white supremacy,” the coalition wrote in a post after news broke of the executives planned meeting with Trump.

“This is a reminder of the stark difference between how these CEOs see the interests of their companies, and how we see our interests as tech workers.”