WASHINGTON — President Trump convened a meeting of top business leaders, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s president and chief executive officer, Doug McMillon, at the White House Friday where discussions ranged from immigration and taxes to trade and regulatory relief.
The business executives are part of President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, which was established in December to help improve U.S. job growth and carry out Trump’s Made in America pledge.
“This is really a world-class group,” Trump said in his opening remarks.
He hailed the employment figures released by the Labor Department Friday, which showed a gain of 227,000 jobs in the overall economy.
“We are bringing back jobs,” Trump said. “We are bringing down your taxes. We are getting rid of regulations. I think there will be some great and exciting times ahead. We will be coming up with a tax bill very soon and a health-care bill even sooner.”
Trump said he was tapping the chief executives for their input on ways to “bring back our jobs, to get taxes even lower than we are cutting them…and to do what we have to do in terms of regulations.”
McMillon said in statement released after the meeting that it “offered an important opportunity to discuss the economy and job creation.”
“The dialogue with President Trump was constructive and candid, ranging widely. I was proud to share how we work to make life better for our customers in ways that also create opportunities for our associates and our communities,” McMillon said. “I look forward to continued discussions with the administration, consistent with our longstanding belief that it’s always better to be engaged in trying to shape solutions than sitting on the sidelines.”
The business leaders met Trump at the White House at a time of heightened concern over his executive order banning foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations, which has sparked a global outcry.
Several fashion executives, including Kering ceo and chairman, François-Henri Pinault, have expressed concern. While he did not directly refer to Trump in a tweet, Pinault called for “diversity of origin, opinion and belief.” He joined the broad swath people who have criticized the executive officer, including, designers such as Prabal Gurung and models such as Gigi and Bella Hadid.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook have also sent memos to employees opposing the executive order.
Only the opening remarks from Trump and the council’s chair, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, ceo and cofounder of Blackstone, were open to the press.
“The real purpose is to get things done—to advise the government as to areas where we can do things a lot better as a country for all Americans,” Schwarzman said. “We’re going to cover some immigration things; we’re going to cover regulatory relief; we are going to cover tax and trade, women in the workplace, infrastructure and education.”
“In each of those areas we’ll get suggestions of ways to make things happen, happen faster to improve the country,” he added. “It’s really important that we mobilize the non-governmental sector and also important that we do it on a bipartisan basis.”
One significant regulatory law that Trump has targeted is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama.
“We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money,” Trump said. “They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd Frank. So we’ll be talking about that in terms of the banking industry.”
Trump later signed an executive order directing the Treasury Department to conduct a review of all financial regulations, which will include the Dodd-Frank law.
The forum also included Bob Iger, chairman and ceo of The Walt Disney Co.; Mary Barra, chairman and ceo of General Motors; Jamie Dimon, chairman and ceo of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and ceo of IBM; Marc Weinberger, global chairman and ceo of EY, and Larry Fink, chairman and ceo of BlackRock.