Obama had earlier asked Steve Jobs to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Trump is on the same page and might favour Silicon Valley.
My stomach has been hurting on and off all week, specifically, as I need to say something about the President-elect Trump’s meeting with the heads of a dozen Silicon Valley giants.
I’d like to say it’s a good thing. An incoming administrator reaches out to a group of business leaders who were largely not supportive of his campaign.
Two things get in my way. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump railed against free trade deals and companies such as Apple that make products in China or Mexico.
Silicon Valley companies and semiconductor companies specifically want free trade because most of their sales and much of their manufacturing are overseas. Overseas sales will only grow as economies like China and India rise. Chip and system makers have had labour-intensive assembly done overseas for decades or handled in a few highly automated plants in North America.
At the meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower, the president-elect suggested he will make cross-border trade easier. He will help Silicon Valley companies grow. He was all smiles and well wishes.
That’s where I started feeling the tug of a new and larger reality distortion field. Trump’s passionate calls in rallies for tearing up trade deals and holding companies’ feet to the fire felt more sincere than the photo op in the New York board room. I wondered what was said once reporters left the room.
I know it’s the nature of politics to make nice with everyone, make hard choices and keep smiling. My concern with the president-elect is I don’t get a gut feel of what he values. I don’t yet know what he will really do.
Certainly I detested his wholesale calls to deport Mexicans and Muslims. Sharing that concern, some are circulating petitions in the tech community not to support creating databases based on a person’s ethnic or religious background. Like me, they seem to genuinely fear what the Trump will do come January 20.
One other thing gets in my way of feeling like this: this was just a normal post-election mending of the fences.
The meeting was held not at some neutral location but at Trump Tower. Okay, maybe that was a matter of convenience and saved taxpayers the money of renting a hotel boardroom.
But what really creeps me out was four of Trump’s adult children attended the meeting.
They are the same people he says he will run his business as insurance he will have no conflicts of interest. So why are they there in a meeting with a dozen chief executives of multibillion dollar corporations?
As the camera panned around the room at executives and Trump family members with smiles and sober business faces all I saw were elephants in the room. The words and images were out of synch with what has been expressed passionately elsewhere and I started feeling dizzy.
On Dec.16, the Obama administration announced what is likely the last of a group of institutes under its Manufacturing USA program. It had previously set up a handful of them including a printed electronics research institute in San Jose, California. They aim to help the U.S. get a leg up on the next big thing.
I think Barack Obama got it. He asked Steve Jobs what it would take to bring iPhone manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Steve Jobs was clear those jobs are not coming back, and we don’t want them because they are not jobs that would sustain anyone living in the American economy, they are last-generation jobs.
Maybe Donald Trump gets it or will get it at some point and do things that are good for Silicon Valley and America. I hope so. Right now, my stomach aches.
First published by EE Times.