Donald Trump and Silicon Valley are about to have a meeting of the minds.
The President-elect has called upon leading tech company executives to join him for a roundtable discussion next Wednesday at Trump Tower. Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law Jared Kushner and transition team adviser Peter Thiel sent the invitation out to a slate of tech executives.
The agenda and its full list of participants have yet to be disclosed, but Oracle (ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report CEO Safra Catz and Cisco Systems (CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report CEO Chuck Robbins are expected to attend, USA Today reports.
Trump's relationship with the region has hardly been amicable. On the campaign trail, he called for Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report to move its manufacturing to American soil, said Amazon (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report may have "huge" antitrust and tax issues and spoke of Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report Google suppressing negative headlines about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, among other claims.
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook held a fundraiser for Clinton earlier this year and Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report and eBay (EBAY) - Get eBay Inc. Report executives formed the anti-Trump political action committee "Not Who We Are."
So it may seem peculiar that Trump is now moving to meet with some of the very leaders he sparred with before clinching the presidential nomination. But the roundtable could give executives the opportunity to make their case for which issues are most important, said Tim Bajarin, president of technology research firm Creative Strategies. He also said the session would be valuable for learning more about what kinds of technology policies may emerge from the new administration.
"They've got to get Trump to understand that advancements in technology are going to be one of the greatest driving forces of the economy and he can't ignore that," Bajarin said. "They want to be real clear with him about what's realistic with job creation and how things are going to evolve whether he likes it or not."
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Last week, Trump announced the formation of a business advisory council headed by Stephen Schwarzman, the chief of investment firm Blackstone Group (BX) - Get Blackstone Group Inc. Class A Report. The only tech company executive invited to that was IBM's (IBM) - Get International Business Machines (IBM) Report Ginny Rometty, however.
A coalition of technology trade groups in November sent a letter to Trump outlining a number of principles that they believe should be a major focus once he enters the White House. That included utilizing technological innovation as a means of job creation, lowering corporate taxes and tackling immigration reform.
The group, which includes the Consumer Technology Association and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, lists Apple, Facebook, Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report and a number of other prominent technology companies as members. Another issue that could be on the table is the ongoing movement toward 5G networks.
Trump hopes to use Thiel, a long-time Silicon Valley investor who famously backed Trump in the election, as his liaison with the technology industry. As a former PayPal (PYPL) - Get PayPal Holdings Inc Report CEO and board member of Facebook, Thiel "understands very clearly" what's going on in technology, Bajarin said.
"Whether he's the proper person to drive the direction of the policy is questionable because he only represents one sector," Bajarin noted. "But because he knows the players, he has to actively get them before Trump in order for Trump to make progress."
The other question is whether Trump will attempt to strong-arm attendees into agreeing with his ideas and plans. Trump's recent meeting with the New York Times was generally pragmatic, yet a "reset" meeting with cable executives from CNN, MSNBC and other networks turned out to be like a "firing squad."
"We've already seen Donald Trump badger several companies over investing in the U.S., and it's likely we'll see at least something of a message from Trump at this meeting about investing domestically," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at market research firm Jackdaw Research, by email.
"I'm sure the tech leaders attending will be at least somewhat nervous, and I'm not sure that Thiel as an intermediary will really do much to settle things," Dawson added.
Many technology companies are anxious about speculation Trump may institute a 45% tariff on Chinese imports. Any such tariff would be "disastrous" for Apple and any other company that has products coming in from China, Bajarin explained. Apple's supply chain is primarily based in China, so a major tariff hike would likely resulting in skyrocketing iPhone prices.
However Trump decides to tackle issues surrounding net neutrality, tariffs or corporate taxes, he'll likely never have the same kind of rosy relationship with Silicon Valley that President Barack Obama had. Trump has a lot of ground to cover before he's fully prepped on the current state of technology, Bajarin noted.
"I don't know if Trump really understands, especially in the next ten years, that technology will be one of the biggest driving forces of economic growth," Bajarin said. "He needs to move technology to the forefront of his economic plans."