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Trump, Biden aide woo corporate America executives

Published 2024-06-13, 06:11 a/m
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Combination picture showing U.S. President Joe Biden delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families, in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., March 19, 2024 and Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump taking the
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By David Shepardson, Joey Roulette and Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Jeff Zients, U.S. President Joe Biden's White House chief of staff, on Thursday met with top American business leaders in Washington as they seek to curry favor with corporate America months ahead of elections, two sources said.

Trump was interviewed by conservative commentator Larry Kudlow, who served as a key economic adviser during Trump's 2017 to 2021 term, the sources said. JP Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, Xerox (NASDAQ:XRX) CEO Steven Bandrowczak, Gap Inc (NYSE:GPS) President Richard Dickson, and Truist CEO Bill Rogers were seen leaving the building after the meeting.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was seen sitting in the front row, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore said.

The Trump meeting with the Business Roundtable, which counts over 200 CEOs as members, focused on the economy. Moore said the former president "had a very pro-business message" that emphasized tax cuts for businesses and reducing regulation.

The dueling Thursday pitches show both candidates are increasingly focused on wooing deep pocketed and powerful corporate CEOs as the election draws near. In a May Reuters/Ipsos poll, 44% of registered voters said they believed Trump had a better plan for the economy compared with 33% in support of Biden's economic strategy.

Zients, who was interviewed by Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts, said Biden wasn't interested in starting a trade war with China and that the U.S. is in a stronger position compared to China than it was four years ago, according to a person in the room.

On taxes, Zients said the president thinks the U.S. needs to raise more revenue, but also must be competitive on investment.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES, TAXES

Biden and Trump, who are locked in a tight race five months before the Nov. 5 election, disagree on a number of major economic issues.

Biden has made protecting the environment a core part of his economic plans. His administration has created a series of incentives for the purchase and use of electric vehicles, and in January his administration paused approvals for applications to export liquefied natural gas from new projects.

Trump, while at times light on specifics, has attacked measures meant to hasten the transition of the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels and has repeatedly claimed that electric vehicles do not work.

Trump "said one of his first priorities when he is back in office he will be to unleash American energy," Moore said, adding that "We are playing into the hands of China, Russia and OPEC by not producing more."

While in office, Trump cut the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, cuts that Moore said Trump would seek to make permanent. Biden has proposed increasing the top rate for large corporations to 28%, below historic levels, but above the current figure.

BUSINESS TITANS RETURN TO TRUMP

Both men have broadly used tariffs to protect U.S. industry. Trump has proposed putting a 10% duty on all imports.

"President Trump's America First economic program will deliver middle class tax cuts, record-setting regulation cuts, fair trade, abundant energy, low inflation, better wages and a restoration of the rule of law in America," said Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt.

While in Washington, Trump is also slated to speak to Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives at locations close to the U.S. Capitol. Those meetings are expected to focus on the policy priorities of a potential second Trump term.

The Business Roundtable routinely asks major party presidential candidates to address the group during election years. Even so, Trump's appearance underlines how some in the business community have warmed to the former president after many companies distanced themselves from him and his supporters following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Combination picture showing U.S. President Joe Biden delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families, in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., March 19, 2024 and Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump taking the stage during a campaign rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire, U.S.,  January 16, 2024.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque and Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

In the weeks after the attack, many major corporations said they would no longer donate to federal politicians who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 vote, which Biden won, though many have since appeared to quietly walk back that pledge.

Business titans like Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone (NYSE:BX), have previously forsaken Trump, only to announce in this election cycle that they would support him after he easily dispatched his rivals in the Republican presidential nominating contest earlier this year.

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