Technology CEOs urged to join Trump initiative

Washington D.C.         
                                     Eric Thayer  Getty Images

While tech leaders - or their companies - have spoken out against some Trump policies, including withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement and a travel ban that was later overturned, it was still a full house for Monday's meeting, where Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos were among those in attendance. It's a broad slate that reflects not only President Trump's trust in his son-in-law's ability and loyalty, and perhaps, also, his distrust and lack of confidence in others in his administration. The main agenda, at least on paper: talk through ways to modernize the government's technology infrastructure.

Yet numerous leading lights in the industry turned out for the first major meeting of the American Technology Council, which Trump commissioned in May and which is being shepherded by Kushner.

The corporate leaders at the table with the president on Monday cumulatively represented more than $3.5 trillion in market value, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. Nadella called for continuing an "enlightened immigration policy" to boost "American competitiveness". Spicer added that it was "pretty telling", despite differences numerous CEOs have with Trump, that the administration was able to bring them together "to further the president's agenda and to bring ideas to the table".

Mr. Kushner has courted the tech industry since before Mr. Trump's inauguration.

The meetings are expected to continue as the White House celebrates its tech meet. "The question is, how much does the president bring up issues that are more controversial, or do the executives?" Cook plans to raise immigration, a person briefed on the matter said Sunday. Axios was first to report on Cook's agenda for the meeting. I want America to do well.

The officials also planned to discuss the H-1B visa program, which Trump has pledged to scale back despite the objections from Silicon Valley. IBM was prominent last week during the White House's push for apprenticeships.

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"Today, we've assembled a very impressive group of leaders from the private sector and are putting them to work here today to work on some of the country's biggest challenges that will make a very meaningful difference to a lot of its citizens", Mr. Kushner said, reading a statement, his voice reedy and echoing through the room.

Yet, there are concerns inside and outside the industry that this meeting - like the first one in December - will amount to little more than a photo opp benefiting Trump while doing little to advance tech's key causes. "So far, I've found exactly the opposite".

There are some notable absences this time around. At the moment, it seems to have been one grand showcase, with executives bringing up whatever issues is most relevant to their business and Trump responding with quips and thank yous, without assurances that there will be change.

Some technology executives have clashed with Trump over his decision to exit the Paris climate accord.

The meeting was also notable for who didn't attend.

However, both Musk and Facebook potentially have a powerful stand-in at the meeting: Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor and Trump's top tech ally.

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