Shortly after winning the US presidential election, Donald Trump announced he was forming a presidential advisory forum – the Business Advisory Council – on matters regarding the economy, specifically aimed at creating American jobs for the American people, as an echo of his campaign promises. The president invited on the council a group of business leaders representing a variety of US corporations, such as Boeing, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, the Walt Disney Co, Tesla & SpaceX, PepsiCo, Patomak Global Partners LLC, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Boston Consulting Group, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Global Infrastructure Partners, the investment firm Blackstone Group LP, whose CEO Stephen Schwarzman was appointed Chair of the Council, and others. In a statement made on December 22nd, 2016, the president emphasised his commitment to fulfill the economic platform he announced during his campaign by implementing a series of innovative policies: “My administration is committed to drawing on private sector expertise and cutting the government red tape that is holding back our businesses from hiring, innovating, and expanding right here in America.”
The president’s Advisory Council held a first meeting on February 3rd, 2017, which gathered executives from different business sectors, whom the president referred to as “the biggest and best minds in the country”. During the meeting, the president spoke about the Dodd-Frank Act, financial regulations, the economy, and the January 2017 employment numbers, which showed the economy had added 227,000 new jobs. The president also pointed towards his top priorities – creating jobs, reducing taxes and regulations, relaxing access to credit, investing in infrastructure and education, etc. During his address, the president accentuated the role of the Advisory Council to provide expertise and the importance of mobilising the private sector in achieving faster economic growth and prosperity for the American people, including setting up new factories while taking care of the environment and protecting the people. The president discussed his plans to offer tax advantages to companies making products in the US, cut taxes for the middle class and companies by 15% to 20%, cut regulations by 75%, introduce border taxes for products produced in other countries and brought into the US, etc.
While 17 top executives attended the first meeting of the Advisory Council, a notable absence was Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, who stepped down a day prior to the meeting following calls from his employees and customers to respect the values the company was founded on and a social media campaign #DeleteUber which took shape in the wake of president Trump’s immigration ban.
Opting to remain on the president’s Advisory Council, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk decided to join the other executives on the panel, using this opportunity to meet with president Trump and deliver his suggestions on business related matters, while also addressing the president’s recent executive order on immigration and offering constructive proposals for changes to the policy. Musk defended his decision to remain on the Advisory Council considering engaging in business decisions of national importance to be in the service of creating greater good and being more productive, while at the same time offering constructive feedback to the president on polemical matters. Elon Musk highlighted in one of his tweets, published on February 2nd, his commitment to continue “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilisation”, thus setting the tone for creating new jobs and a more inspiring future for all.
While encouraging the president to listen more, the Advisory Council members may have the chance to engage him and his administration directly by sharing views and advice on different matters, especially on those with complex, nuanced and potentially sensitive ramifications. Listening to experts and well-respected business leaders on all sides and receiving constructive feedback may help the president see different sides of a matter in a more productive way, which may in turn help insure his decisions are wiser, more balanced and practical while moving the country forward.
How may business leaders guide president Trump’s economic policy?