Trump, tech executives may try to untangle relationship

The two sides are expected to try to sort out issues at a meeting this week in New York

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump is meeting this week in New York with top tech executives, including Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, according to news reports.

Invitations to the meeting were signed by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley figure who came out openly early on in favor of Trump.

The relationship between Trump and Silicon Valley companies has been difficult with some senior tech executives openly backing his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the presidential elections. The president-elect and tech companies also appear to have differing views on issues such as immigration, outsourcing abroad, clean energy, net neutrality, encryption, surveillance and on restoring lost manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Trump, for example, was critical of Apple’s refusal to help the Department of Justice access information on the iPhone used by a San Bernardino, California, terrorist in an attack last December. “Boycott all Apple products until such time as Apple gives cellphone info to authorities regarding radical Islamic terrorist couple from Cal,” Trump tweeted in February. Apple had said that helping the FBI crack the phone would require it to develop a new version of the iOS operating system and weaken its security in the bargain.

During the campaign, Trump also said he would get Apple to make its computers in the U.S. instead of in other countries, as part of his agenda to bring jobs back stateside. Apple claims on its website that its “products and innovations have led to almost 2 million U.S. jobs — from our engineers and retail employees to suppliers, manufacturers, and app developers.” Trump also picked on IBM in November, saying that it "laid off 500 workers in Minneapolis and moved their jobs to India and various other countries." IBM said the statement was incorrect.

Trump has meanwhile appointed two opponents of current net neutrality rules to his team charged with overseeing the transition in the Federal Communications Commission, leading to concerns that his administration may try to reverse rules passed last year to prevent providers from selectively blocking or throttling or offering paid prioritization of web traffic.

The meeting on Wednesday could hence provide an opportunity for a rapprochement between the Trump transition team and key U.S. tech executives, though the president-elect may also use the opportunity to push his pet demands. Trump may try to get pledges from companies like Apple and others to make products locally and keep manufacturing jobs in the country, in deals similar to one he struck recently with Carrier. He may also try to get commitments from companies to do IT and product design work locally rather than in locations like India.

Oracle confirmed that its CEO Safra Catz would be attending the meeting. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google did not immediately comment over the weekend.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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