President-elect Donald Trump and then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during their presidential debate. Photo/Courtesy.
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump added three more high-profile CEOs— Pepsi (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk — to his Strategic and Policy Forum.
The forum is meant for members to share their expertise from the private sector on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity.
“My Administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland,” Trump said in a statement.
With Pepsi’s Nooyi on board, expect there to be plenty of discussion about some serious issues.
Just two days after the election, Nooyi, a Hillary Clinton supporter, spoke at the Dealbook Conference.
“Is there a box of tissues here?” Nooyi responded when asked by Andrew Ross Sorkin for her reaction to the election results. “I’ll tell you, first of all, I want to congratulate President Donald Trump. Because the election is over, I think, we should mourn for those of us who supported the other side, but we have to come together and life has to go on.”
She added that she had to answer a lot of questions from both her employees.
“They were all in mourning. My employees were all crying. The question that they are asking, especially those who are not white — ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I would have to answer those questions.”
She continued: “So, I think that the first thing that we have to do is to assure everyone living in the United States will be safe. Nothing has changed because of this election. What we heard was election talk and we will all come together and unify as a country. So, the process of democracy happened. We just have to let life go on.”
In other words: Now that the election talk is over, it’s time to get down to the issues.
Every night growing up, Nooyi’s mother would have her and her sister write a speech at the dinner table and deliver it. They would pretend to be a different world leader and their mom would vote. She was asked what kind of speech she would give today.
“A lot of what should have been said during the election I don’t think was said. Because I think we had the politics trump the issues, pardon the pun. I think that’s what happened. I think the real issues that face us as a country weren’t talked about, the reason being that if the real issues were put on the table we would have had to engage in a serious discussion. I don’t think we are ready for serious discussions. The real issues don’t lend themselves to  characters, the real issues don’t lend themselves to sound bites on television.”
She added that “we’ll have to pick up the big issues — technological unemployment, global trade, immigration, all of which needs reform and have serious conversation about that. Who is going to call for this dialogue, who will participate in the dialogue, and then what are we going to do about the dialogue are all big questions. I don’t know how we can handle it in a short bursts or soundbites. It would be counterproductive to do it in soundbites.”
She was also asked about the possible implications Trump’s rhetoric on trade and protectionism might have. She said that she worries about possible discrimination of American companies overseas.
“Because we fly the American flag, because we are domiciled in the United States, we are a beneficiary or victim of America’s foreign policy and position in the world. And therefore, wherever we go, the first thing they talk to us is about the United States. What I worry about is that there might be discrimination against American companies overseas, if there is protectionism in the United States,” she said at the conference.
She added: “I’m sincerely hoping based on the talk we heard from our president-elect the day after the election, that what we’ve heard before the election and what we are seeing in action are quite different, and that it’s much more measured and it’s more sensitive to the trade deals that we have already and that we want to build this country the right way going forward not necessarily retreat into, you know, isolationism or whatever.”
Pepsi didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The forum, established earlier this month and chaired by Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, previously included financial and business titans such as Jamie Dimon, Larry Fink, Bob Iger, Doug McMillon, Jim McNerney, Jack Welch, and others. Initially, the forum lacked representation from Silicon Valley other than IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.
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