DAVOS, Switzerland — Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, attended President-elect Donald Trump’s December tech summit at Trump Tower.
Almost all of Silicon Valley’s heavy hitters were there, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
What was discussed?
Robbins, who was on a Business Insider-led “Innovation” panel at the World Economic Forum here in Switzerland, said the group made progress in discussing diverging views on issues like trade and immigration. He also called the meeting “interactive” and said “lots of laughs” were shared.
“It was an incredibly constructive meeting,” Robbins said. “And I think everyone that walked in that room put behind them whatever their political views were during the election.”
“I’ll say that even the Trump team — everyone is looking forward at how we work together to solve challenges, to create jobs and to do the things that need to be done. … We discussed issues of tax, we discussed trade, we discussed immigration, we discussed innovation and entrepreneurship, we discussed job creation, and it was a very engaging discussion. There was a lot of interactive dialogue. Lots of laughs. So it was a very constructive meeting.
“I came out, from a business perspective, very optimistic about what it might mean for global business. Because the US and the global economy are so intertwined that you can’t impact them independent of each other. So I think the changes that are being contemplated will not only be good for the US, but will also be good for the global economy.”
With regard to immigration, Robbins said the executives spoke with Trump about separating border issues from visa issues for high-skilled workers.
Many US companies take part in the H1B visa program, which allows them to apply to hire graduate-level immigrants temporarily, particularly for technical and engineering roles.
But Trump and his pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have both voiced concerns about companies “abusing” H1B visas and have suggested they’re used to cut costs. The hired immigrants often require less compensation than American workers.
“One of the things that we actually talked about in the meeting with president-elect was to separate the two [immigration] issues,” Robbins said.
“There’s immigration control and the border issues and then there’s high-skilled immigration. They’re two different issues and he agreed with that,” he continued. “I think when I talk to leaders of other countries around the world, everyone is trying to think through what their high-skilled immigration strategy is. Because everyone is struggling to have the best and brightest working inside their borders. When you look at Silicon Valley, even 44% of the startups are started by immigrants … The entire focus that all of us have had on diversity for the past decade has been to bring different ways of thinking, because that actually spurs innovation. It generates new ideas.”
Here’s a link to the full interview with Robbins and the other panelists at the World Economic Forum about the future of Innovation. His comments about the Trump meeting can be seen below at the 11:30-minute mark, and continue at the 16:40-minute mark.
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