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2016-12-13 15:22:14
When Trump Meets Tech Leaders, Jobs Will Be on the Agenda

SAN FRANCISCO — At the top of the agenda when President-elect Donald J. Trump meets with tech leaders on Wednesday afternoon: jobs, jobs and more jobs.

Other topics will come up too, depending on Mr. Trump’s whims. One likely possibility: the repatriation of offshore cash.

The top tech companies collectively hold hundreds of billions of dollars overseas. They would like to return the money to the United States at a beneficial tax rate. For Mr. Trump, a deal on these funds could represent money that would help advance an infrastructure program.

But mostly, it will be about jobs. The tech community has put its products in every home and pocket, generating enormous wealth along the way. But the companies employ relatively few people, and the wealth is concentrated in places like Silicon Valley and Seattle. Changing this equation is the task of Peter Thiel, the tech investor who is now advising Mr. Trump.

The meeting agenda, which was still a work in progress, was described by a person briefed on the round table, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly.

A Trump transition spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

Those attending the meeting, which will be held at Trump Tower in Manhattan, include:

■ Elon Musk of Tesla ■ Larry Page and Eric E. Schmidt of Alphabet, Google’s parent ■ Timothy D. Cook of Apple ■ Satya Nadella of Microsoft ■ Jeff Bezos of Amazon ■ Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook ■ Safra A. Catz of Oracle ■ Brian M. Krzanich of Intel ■ Chuck Robbins of Cisco ■ Ginni Rometty of IBM

The companies are generally keeping a low profile about the event. Several of them were Mr. Trump’s targets during the campaign over issues as varied as offshoring, digital security and antitrust issues. They also saw how a post-Election Day meeting with television executives, while supposedly off the record, turned into public humiliation after Mr. Trump attacked them.

The Information Technology Industry Council, a trade association for the tech industry, held a conference call last Friday with some of its members — which include Apple, Amazon and Facebook — to formulate a unified approach. Dean C. Garfield, president of the council, was guarded about the meeting’s prospects.

“There are many areas of potential shared alignment between the technology industry and the incoming Trump administration,” Mr. Garfield said. “Wednesday’s meeting is a good opportunity to explore what is possible.”

Ms. Rometty, a member of Mr. Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, is championing a new educational model for the United States that focuses on vocational training. Six-year public high schools that “combine traditional education with the best of community colleges” would provide IBM and other companies with the relevant skills for “new collar” information-technology jobs, she wrote in a letter to Mr. Trump after the election.

There is no simple policy change that could spread tech’s success to parts of the country that are reeling. Facebook employs relatively few people. Apple manufactures its products mostly in China and says reproducing its intricate ecosystem here would push up prices drastically for iPhones. Amazon has created tens of thousands of jobs in its warehouses across the country but is also blamed by critics for forcing small retailers out of business.

Two companies were invited to the meeting on Wednesday but are not showing up: the ride-hailing company Uber and the short-term home rental service Airbnb.

Perhaps it is merely coincidence, but both companies are at the forefront of the debate about jobs and the digital economy. Fans say they provide flexible work for those who need to supplement their incomes. Critics say they are poor substitutes for full-time jobs.

Airbnb said that its chief executive, Brian Chesky, was traveling overseas, and that nothing more should be read into his absence. “We look forward to working with the incoming administration, and others in Washington, on a range of issues,” said Nick Papas, a company spokesman. He declined to say where Mr. Chesky was.

An Uber spokesman said its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, was in India this week.

Apple has already drawn the president-elect’s scrutiny over jobs. “One of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States,” Mr. Trump said in late November.

On Monday, in what perhaps could be seen as a pre-emptive strike, Apple was revealed to be negotiating a major investment in a technology fund celebrated by Mr. Trump last week for its jobs-making potential.

Apple has held discussions about potentially participating in a $100 billion fund to be run by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, according to a person briefed on the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

SoftBank’s founder, Masayoshi Son, pledged last week to the president-elect that his company would invest $50 billion in the United States and create some 50,000 jobs. After Mr. Trump tweeted that news, some pointed out that the fund had been created before the election and that much of the investment would probably have been in this country no matter what.

Apple’s discussions with SoftBank, which was the first Japanese telecommunications company to sell the iPhone in Japan, are not close to completion, the person briefed on the talks cautioned. And the discussions began well before Mr. Son’s meeting with Mr. Trump. The talks were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal. Apple declined to comment.

Silicon Valley was largely opposed to Mr. Trump as a candidate — sometimes vocally, sometimes quietly. In the wake of his election, there is a shift in attitudes. Perhaps it is simple pragmatism, but more conciliatory voices are being heard.

Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post — a frequent scourge of Mr. Trump during the election — tweeted his congratulations. “I for one give him my most open mind,” he said.

Ms. Catz, the co-chief executive of Oracle, was even more enthusiastic. “I plan to tell the president-elect that we are with him and are here to help in any way we can,” she said in a statement.