U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is set to meet with a group of top technology company executives next week. The exact attendee list is not yet public, but Politico reports that leaders from Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon have been invited.
A source also confirmed to Politico that Oracle CEO Safra Catz will attend the Dec. 14 meeting in New York, and the Wall Street Journal reported that Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins also plans to go. You'd also expect IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to show up, given that she's a member of Trump's business policy advisory team.
PayPal founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel has taken a prominent role in Trump's transition effort, and his fingerprints are likely on Trump's meeting with tech executives. During the campaign, Trump and Silicon Valley had a rather fraught relationship, with the candidate offering harsh criticisms of top tech companies and his campaign receiving widespread opposition from the industry (with Thiel being a prominent exception).
It's not clear what the agenda for next week's meeting will contain, or whether it will play out as a productive or mostly contentious discussion. But Constellation Research believes there are a set of highly important topics for Trump and the executives to start dialogues on immediately. Here's a look.
H-1B Visas: Trump's views on immigration reform are well-known, but within that topic his stance on H-1B visas has wavered. Initially, he took a hard position against them, then indicated modest support for H-1Bs in the interest of attracting skilled labor. But most recently, Trump once again condemned them and vowed to "end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program." Cisco CEO Robbins is on record saying he believes Trump can be convinced to increase the number of H-1Bs issued. Next week's meeting presents a chance for Robbins and fellow tech execs to make that case.
Net neutrality: Some observers believe Trump's administration will undermine net neutrality regulations. Although he himself has said little on the topic, a number of appointees to his Federal Communications Commission team are known opponents of net neutrality. Two of them, Jeff Eisenach and Mark Jamison,respectively worked for net neutrality foes Verizon and Sprint.
Taxing Internet Sales: Trump has had harsh words for online retail giant Amazon, saying it is "getting away with murder, tax-wise." Both Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have voiced support for online sales taxes, but the incoming administration's position on the topic still isn't entirely clear. Getting that clarity will be important for both online retailers and consumers.
Infrastructure: A centerpiece of Trump's economic plan is massive spending on infrastructure projects--bridges and roads--in order to create jobs and spark the economy. There's an opportunity for Trump to focus on technology infrastructure as well through investments in the Internet backbone and mobile bandwidth. Trump may also look to take back control of the Domain Name System, which the Obama administration handed off to the nonprofit ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in a widely criticized decision.
China policy: U.S. tech companies desperately want to do more business in China, and a volatile Trump throwing bombs at China over Twitter won't be of any help in this regard. Trump has already made indications he'll take an adversarial stance toward China and its economic policies.
Repatriation: Trump has touted a plan to cut corporate tax rates in the interest of getting companies parking large cash stockpiles overseas to return them to the U.S. Should this plan move forward, it will be interesting to see how it alters the investment strategies of large tech companies in products and services.
Cybersecurity and privacy: One thing the government, the private sector and the public can agree on is that cybersecurity should be a top priority under the Trump administration, particularly in light of emerging threats posed by the IoT (Internet of Things). While regulations must be part of the discussion, another welcome development would be an increased government-private sector around cybersecurity and preventing cybercrime.
The Bottom Line
There's no way to know what will result from next week's meeting, but some or even most of these topics seem likely to come up. Whether they do or don't, the outcome will provide the first clear indications of Trump's priority issues for technology policy, so it's worth watching very closely.
This Constellation Insights post was written with contributions from R "Ray" Wang, Doug Henschen, Alan Lepofsky, Holger Mueller and Esteban Kolsky.
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