Trump Had ‘Spirited’ Talk With Executives, Schwarzman Says

  • Attendees discuss border-adjusted tax, China, immigration
  • Uber’s Kalanick stepped down from council amid criticism

President Donald Trump and top U.S. executives had a spirited, balanced discussion about tax issues during a gathering Friday, according to Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman, who attended the meeting.

“It was spirited intellectually,” Schwarzman said in an interview on CNBC, adding that differing views were raised about the new administration’s proposed border-adjusted tax, which would put tariffs on imports.

Some companies run by leaders in attendance, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Doug McMillon, have disagreed with Trump and Congressional Republicans on the proposal.

“You don’t want to do something that hurts a significant part of the economy, but you want to get benefits from the exports,” Schwarzman said. “Both sides have good points.”

Trump invited 18 executives to the White House to discuss topics ranging from trade and education to women’s roles in the workforce. He called the members “the biggest and best minds in the country.” Trump appointed Schwarzman, who has a net worth of $11 billion, as chairman of the council in December, with the goal of receiving advice on economic growth and job creation from a group of business leaders.

Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick was conspicuously absent. Kalanick gave up his committee position Thursday amid uproar from customers and drivers about the connection to the administration. Staying on the council would “get in the way” of advocating for immigration values that are important to the country and to Uber, he wrote in an e-mail to employees.

“Travis was in a really difficult spot,” Schwarzman said Friday. “His business was being very adversely affected, he had discontent among his employees.”

While the Blackstone chief called the White House meeting private, declining to say who spoke about which topics, he said that infrastructure, China and immigration came up during the conversation.

“Each came with a long list of things that can be done -- some very quickly, some take a little longer,” Schwarzman said. “The receptivity to that was instant.”

After the meeting, Schwarzman departed Washington on Air Force One to Palm Beach, Florida, where he and Trump have homes.

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