US president-elect Donald Trump has struck a conciliatory tone in his meeting with Silicon Valley leaders, offering them all the help they needed to succeed, and even more, in sharp contrast to his broadside especially against Indian-born CEOs.
“I’m here to help you folks do well,” he told them and asked them to let him know, personally, if “anything we can do to help this go along, we’ll be there for you and you’ll call my people, you’ll call me, it doesn’t make any difference”.
Those who attended included Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet’s Larry Page and Eric Schmitt, Apple’s Tim Cook, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Oracle’s Safra Catz and IBM’s Ginni Rommety.
The most glaring absence was Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Trump’s go-to social media platform for every occasion. Also missing was Marissa Meyer, the embattled CEO of Yahoo!, which admitted Wednesday to suffering a massive hacking.
Trump and the tech leaders discussed creating jobs for Americans, market access to China, digital infrastructure, repatriating American profits parked abroad, and cybersecurity among other things, according to a transition team readout.
The issue of H-1B, top of the list of Indian interest in the meeting billed as Tech Summit, didn’t come up directly. If it did in the discussion on creating jobs for American workers, it failed to make it to the readout. No one else mentioned it either.
Trump, who concedes H-1B has advantages that made him use it himself for his businesses, has hinted at restrictions, without mentioning specifics, so as to protect Americans from being replaced by foreigners -- it has to be Americans first, he has said.
Foreign workers, a lot of them on H-1B visa that permits US companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers temporarily, are critical to the making of Silicon Valley, a collection of success stories that started as, no prizes for guessing, start-ups.
Neither Trump nor the tech leaders were expected to bring up differences — and there are plenty — this being their first meeting after a bruising electoral battle that saw most of the Silicon Valley standing with Hillary Clinton.
Just days before election in November, Musk, the Tesla founder and boss, said in a TV interview, “I feel a bit stronger that he is probably not the right guy. He doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
Apple’s Tim Cook held a fundraiser for Clinton and Schmitt, of Alphabet, was ready to “to fund, advise, recruit talent” for the Clinton campaign according a hacked email from John Podesta, the campaign chair, released by WikiLeaks.
Peter Theil, the PayPal co-founder and investor who was among the few Silicon Valley figures who backed Trump, was instrumental in organising the Wednesday summit, with a lot of push back from unwilling fellow tech bosses.
He sat on the president-elect’s left. Others from Trump’s team included vice-president-elect Mike Pence, chief strategist Steve Bannon and the children — Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.