President Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again relationship with corporate America was on full display this week as he sparred publicly with the country’s most powerful business lobby over his rinse-and-repeat use of tariffs — and then welcomed top executives to the White House to plead with him in person.
Trump leaves the corporate America hanging
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon met with White House officials to discuss trade issues on Friday, a White House spokesman confirmed to CNN, part of a broader meeting with the Business Roundtable, which includes top executives from some of the biggest companies in the country, including Apple and Amazon. Apple CEO Tim Cook was at the White House the day before.
But despite powerful chief executives airing concerns — both privately and publicly — the President has shown no willingness to heed their advice, leaving them watching from the sidelines as he engages in trade spats with China and traditional US allies like Mexico, Japan and the European Union.
“Unless Trump sees real economic harm — a slowing economy, job losses, sustained falls in the market — he is unlikely to react,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who specializes in trade policy. “He seems to believe quite firmly that his tariffs are helping the economy, and it is going to take more than a few complaints from CEOs to knock him from that conviction.”
Trump has ignored warnings from hundreds of chief executives around the country that tariffs will result in economic calamity with prices on everyday consumer goods increasing and the potential for job losses. On Thursday, more than 600 companies and industry trade associations– including Walmart, Costco, Target and Foot Locker — wrote a joint letter to the White House urging Trump to lift tariffs on China, warning an “escalated trade war is not in the country’s best interest, and both sides will lose.”
But the President, whose tariff-first approach provoked his top economic adviser Gary Cohn to quit more than a year ago, has repeatedly brushed off concerns by American corporate leaders. And he’s felt free to personally attack them, publicly going after GM CEO Mary Barra last year for her decision to shut down an Ohio plant.