Trump as natural disaster
Managing government relations in the US is now like “dealing with a natural disaster” says one corporate leader. No-one is sure where the President might strike next and its impact on the share price. It’s forcing senior executives to rewrite rules on government relations and PR at the highest level.
Getting on the right side of the administration is complicated when parts of your international workforce and company brand values stand in stark opposition. Gillian Tett, the FT’s US managing editor, urges CEOs to make their voices heared. But how? Some executives are accused of ‘acting like a collaborator’; others insist that ‘We don’t know what Trump will do, but we need to get involved!’ John Gapper, the FT’s Chief Business editor, suggest companies ‘fight back, both in the courts if Mr Trump breaks the law and for public support; they must also be willing to suffer his abuse’ he writes.
Some are now taking the latter course. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit Trump’s business advisory council in the face of a viral social media campaign urging users to #deleteUber in protest against Mr Trump’s immigration order. But such decisions might prove trickier, for example, for finance chiefs relishing executive orders aimed at dismantling much of Dodd-Frank banking regulations. That said, ‘Mr Trump’s honeymoon with the C-suite extends only so far.’ What happens if the administration targets skilled-worker visas next?
So companies are developing a variety of tactics: repackaging existing plans in line with the Trumpian mood; negotiating their way out the direct line of attack; or simply praising policies wherever possible to make the President look good, and secure political access on the way.
Trump re-affirms his business priorities
The ‘America first’ theme in President Trump’s inauguration speech was unmistakable. If senior executives were hoping that the new US President would backtrack on his anti-trade message and other campaign issues on taking office, they will have to revisit those assumptions.
The FT summarises the 45th US president’s policy first moves. Among key business-related priorities are: withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated with Japan and Pacific Rim economies; notifying Canada and Mexico of his intention to renegotiate NAFTA; pro-growth tax reforms favouring US workers and businesses; lower taxes across the board, and a simplified tax code. Moreover, the Trump administration may quickly approval new pipelines as he seeks to ‘take advantage of the estimated $50tn in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves.’
Trump presidency: some business talking points
Senior executives are struggling to understand what Donald Trump’s US election victory means for business. It’s difficult to draw firm conclusions during this transition period. In this video interview, The FT’s Martin Wolf explains to Martin Sandbu some of the possible economic repercussions.
Meanwhile, other business talking points arising from recent developments include the following:
An assertive Wall Street: Will the incoming Trump administration help New York become the world’s premier financial centre again? The FT’s Gillian Tett sets out four reasons why this might occur: possible rolling back of some Dodd-Frank financial regulations; healthier US banks; reflationary fiscal policy; and Brexit uncertainty over London.
However, Barclay’s chief executive Jeff Staley tells the FT’s Patrick Jenkins that Trump’s election victory marks an end of the free trade assumptions and US monetary accommodation. According Mr Staley, Dodd Frank, Basel and other cornerstones of financial regulation are unlikely to be reversed, not least because Mr Trump will have other pressing issues to worry about. Other bankers’ opinions were expressed here at the FT Banking summit., including the impact on emerging markets.
Urgency in Asia: Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe appeared to jump the diplomat queue to meet the U.S. President elect, and reported a “warm” meeting with “a leader I can trust”. Mr Abe’s deft move suggests a degree of urgency about getting on the right side Mr Trump. As the FT notes: “Mr Trump’s approach to Asia will have huge implications for Japan — shaping Tokyo’s relations with Beijing in particular.”
Security priorities: Mr Trump has many crucial appointments to make and various interests to satisfy. He has asked Michael Flynn, a retired three-star general, to be White House national security adviser. Mr Flynn is believed to be at odds with conservatives on some social issues but as the FT notes, “he has been criticised for accepting money to attend a dinner in Moscow where he sat besides Russian president Vladimir Putin, which further fuelled concerns about Mr Trump’s relationship with Russia.”
How to work when your boss does not care
The most recent annual Edelman Trust Barometer, produced by the public relations company, showed that large numbers of workers no longer trusted the company they worked for. In Japan, only 40 per cent trusted their employers. In France it was 48 per cent and 57 per cent in the UK. In the US, nearly two-thirds of employees trusted their companies but that has to be set against other downbeat US surveys.
FT couminist, Michael Skapinker, argues that employee disenchantment has costs beyond poor customer service: absenteeism, shoddy work and high turnover. Read his article on performance management (requires FT.com subscription).