Ford CEO: Meeting with Trump 'very positive'

Ford CEO: Meeting with Trump 'very positive'
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The head of Ford Motor Co. expressed confidence in the new administration on Monday following a meeting between President Trump and businesses leaders at the White House.

“Walking out of the meeting today, I know I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious in making sure the United States economy is going to be strong and have policies — tax, regulatory or trade — to drive that,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “That encourages all of us, as CEOs, as we make decisions going forward. 

"So it’s a very, very positive meeting.”

The meeting was described as a “listening session” with CEOs representing a wide array of businesses, including Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. It comes following the auto industry's contentious relationship with Trump on the campaign trail.

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Trump bashed Ford over the automaker’s plan to invest $1.6 billion in Mexico by shifting its North American small-car production south of the border. Ford had emphasized that the move would not affect U.S. jobs because the automaker would be putting new vehicles into the Michigan plants.

But the automaker announced earlier this month that it was canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and instead is investing $700 million in Michigan.

Fields told CNN at the time that the move is a "vote of confidence" in Trump’s promise to create a pro-business environment. Fields emphasized, however, that he did not negotiate any special deal with Trump.

"We didn't cut a deal with Trump,” he said. “We did it for our business.”

Trump also blasted General Motors Co. on Twitter for producing some cars in Mexico and sending them back to the United States. The company has since announced an additional $1 billion in planned investment in the U.S. as part of “an increased focus on overall efficiency over the last four years.”

But the move also underscores the increased public pressure on U.S. businesses for their investments in Mexico.

Trump has used social media to criticize American businesses, often for offshoring jobs or manufacturing facilities, and many expect him to keep up the broadsides in the Oval Office.

As a result, businesses have been scrambling to draft emergency response plans in case Trump attacks them on Twitter. Lobbyists are encouraging clients to keep lines of communication open with the new administration and be proactive about conveying their pro-U.S. business polices in an effort to avoid Trump’s ire.

“We are talking to dozens of our clients about the new reality the [president] has created,” said David Marin, the managing principal of Podesta Group’s public relations shop. “I can’t think of a more important media strategy than this one today. His bully pulpit is Twitter. You ignore that at your peril.”