Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks at a CEO Town Hall Meeting on the United States Business Climate

April 04, 2017

The President. Thank you, Mike. Good morning. Good morning. Hello, Ivanka.

Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives Reed Cordish. Sir, I know you know a few of the people in this room.

The President. I do. I do. All the killers from New York, I'm looking at all those competitive—[laughter]—those great, great talents, great builders.

Mr. Cordish. I have to give you a heads-up that Ivanka chaired one of the sessions before this. Tough act to follow.

The President. Oh, she's tough. Very tough.

Mr. Cordish. Yes. Vice President Pence listed some of the amazing accomplishments that have taken place. Since your election and your 75 days in office, the stock market has had almost unprecedented sustained growth, unprecedented confidence from our manufacturing sector and other business sectors, leading to massive private sector investment in job growth. You have gotten rid of regulations that were unnecessary and were job-stifling. You have strengthened our borders and strengthened our military. You've nominated a great Supreme—superb Supreme Court Justice, amongst many other things. How does all that feel?

The President. And we're getting unbelievable credit for what we've done, other than the mainstream media, which just gives us no credit whatsoever.

Mr. Cordish. Right.

The President. But we are getting tremendous credit. And if you look at the real estate industry, the mining industry, the farming industry—if you look at any of the major industries, you see what's going on.

In fact, even today I was very happy as I read this morning early that our trade deficit with others has gone down very considerably in the last short period of time. It's having a big impact.

And as you know, I'm meeting with the President of China on Thursday and Friday in Palm Beach, Florida, and I think we're going to have a very interesting talk.

Mr. Cordish. Absolutely.

The President. We're having—have a lot of respect for him. I've spoken to him numerous times. But we have to do better, because our deficit with China, as you know, $504 billion. That's a year.

Mr. Cordish. That's incredible.

The President. That's enough for a lifetime. Even Steve would say that. But that's a year.

So we're going to have a great meeting, I'm sure we're going to have a fantastic meeting. And we're going to talk about a lot of things, including, of course, North Korea, a problem. And that's really a humanity problem. So we're going to be talking about that also. Mr. Cordish. You have made it a driving force in this administration to bring in the best minds we can from the private sector, to listen intently to them, and to take decisive action. How important is that, and how important is it to reform Government to bridge the gap between the private and public sectors?

The President. Well, I did, I brought you—[laughter]—I brought Gary Cohn, I brought a lot of very great people of—my friend, Steve, is helping us out. We have a superstar Committee of 22 people. And every time somebody calls me I say, "Steve, put them on." "No, we want to keep it at this level." The heads of the biggest companies, they all want to be on our Committee, right, Stephen? But Steve likes to keep it very small. But they will go off, and they'll disappear, and we'll put others on. But we've had some great meetings, and we've all learned a lot.

One thing that did come up, and it came up yesterday, was Gary Cohn—where's Gary? Is he here?

Mr. Cordish. Right there.

The President. Could you bring that chart, please? Do you mind? Let me see that chart. So this was just something—this is sort of incredible. [Laughter] That's so beautiful.

[At this point, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy David J. Gribbin IV brought a tall chart on stage and rolled it out next the President.]

Mr. Gribbin. I'm not as tall as you.

The President. Yes, no, you're not quite—this is to build a highway in the United States—now, this was just done yesterday. I saw it for the first time. I said, I'm speaking to some of my friends who are builders, really great builders, and they've gone through the process—we've all gone through it in New York—we call it the zoning process in New York.

But you start up here, and this is anywhere from a 10- to 20-year process. You have—is it 17 agencies? You have hundreds and hundreds of permits. Many of them are statutory, where you can't even apply for the second permit until 6 months go by. The process—so this is to build a highway. This is a simple highway. And these are the agencies—so it's 17 agencies. How many different steps is it?

Mr. Cordish. D.J.?

Mr. Gribbin. Sixteen different approvals.

The President. Sixteen.

Mr. Gribbin. Twenty-nine different statutes, five different Executive orders that all apply to this process. This is indicative, so this is not a specific project, but this is the type of process that a government—this is a State Government—would have to go through to permit a highway federally. This is just Federal, not State regulations.

The President. So it can take anywhere from 10—if you're really good, 10 years to 20 years. And then, they vote, and you lose. [Laughter] They don't want it. [Laughter] And it costs sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars just to go through the process.

Thank you very much. That was a great job you did. Be careful, don't fall. I don't want to have you fall. [Laughter] You'll be a big story in the paper if you go down. [Laughter] So I just saw that yesterday. Gary Cohn walked in, and he showed it to me, and—for no reason. I said, you have to do me a favor. But a lot of you, you're such pros, some of the best pros in the world sitting in this room, you understand it. It's a process.

Now, I've always liked it because it gave people that could go through that process an advantage, like Jerry, but it gave us an advantage if you could get through the process. But getting a building approved in New York is a horrible, horrible thing. And that's nothing compared to when you get into the highways and the dams—they don't even talk about dams anymore. Hydropower is a great, great, form of power. We don't even talk about it, because to get the environmental permits are virtually impossible. It's one of the best things you can do—hydro. But we don't talk about it anymore.

So we've come to a halt. We have a tremendous person that we put in charge of EPA, Scott Pruitt, who is an environmental person. He wants clean air, he wants clean water, but he doesn't think it takes you 26 years to get a permit to build a building and to have jobs, at which time those companies are usually gone, out of business, et cetera.

So we're really speeding up the process. We're going to try and take that process from a minimum of 10 years down to 1 year. I said, can't we make it 4 months? [Laughter] Can't we do it in 4 months? And there is a certain logic to that, but we'll be satisfied with the year—but it won't be any more than a year.

So we have to build roads. We have to build highways. We're talking about a very major infrastructure bill of a trillion dollars, perhaps even more. And when we have to do—our jobs—I mean, if we say, we're giving to New York City hundreds of millions of dollars to build a road someplace, it doesn't help if they can't start because it's going to take 7½ years to get the permits. Even to redo a road takes years to get the permits. You have a road that's there, and you want to redo it, and you have to get new permits for the kind of asphalt you're using, the kind of concrete you may want to use.

And if we're going to give all of this money—you know, there was very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration—a trillion dollars—nobody ever saw anything being built. I mean, to this day, I haven't heard of anything that's been built. They used most of that money—it went, and they used it on social programs. And we want this to be on infrastructure.

I'm working with Steve Roth and with Richard LeFrak, two friends of mine that are very good builders. They're great builders. And they know to get things done. They know how to cut red tape. Then, we're going to give them the advantage of having what we have. I see Elaine is here, so important, who is doing an incredible job, by the way—Secretary of Transportation. And Elaine will be working. But we're going to set up a Committee headed by Steve and Richard, and we're going to cut a lot of red tape.

But we don't want to say—send a billion dollars to New York and find out, 5 years later, the money was never spent, because we're going to be very strong that it has to be spent on shovels, not on other programs. And in the last case, a lot of it was spent on other programs. But we're going to say, if you don't spend the money—if you don't start—if you have a job that you can't start within 90 days, we're not going to give you the money for it. Because it doesn't help—doesn't help us. And we're going to be very strong on that. They have to be able to start within 90 days.

Mr. Cordish. Mr. President, we have some of the great business leaders in the country here. If okay with you, they have a few questions, if that's—— The President. Sure.

Mr. Cordish. Great.

The President. Hello, Jerry. [Laughter]

Tishman Speyer Chairman Jerry I. Speyer. Hi, Mr. President. [Laughter]

The President. He didn't have to say his name. He was ready to say his name—we know. We know Jerry. [Laughter] Jerry Speyer, everybody.

Mr. Speyer. Mr. President, you're doing a great job, and we're all really grateful to you for the sacrifices you're making.

[A White House staffer exchanged microphones with Mr. Speyer.]

Mr. Speyer. Hope you heard that.

The President. That sounds much better. [Laughter]

Mr. Speyer. I think from New York's point of view, we send a lot of money into the economy. As a number of people have said, it's over a trillion dollars. We're worried that we're going to have a problem with Congress. And——

The President. With the deductions, right?

Mr. Speyer. Well, that too. That too. But we're worried about various programs that help the city. The city is doing fine right now; even the Yankees are doing fine. But what we're really concerned about is the future. Do you have any advice for us?

The President. Look, I love New York. And in some ways, we're all lucky that I'm from New York, because New York has unique problems. So does Los Angeles; so does Chicago. There are places that have unique problems. One of the problems that you have is debt and deductibility. That's a big one, because a lot of the States that don't have debt or have very little debt—like in the case of Mike Pence, where he did such a good job in Indiana, and it's a AAA-rated bond, one of the strongest in the country, and deductibility is not that big of a deal because they don't have that much to deduct.

And over here, in New York, when you look at what's going on with us, we don't know in terms of the municipality and in terms of the State, we don't know if it can even make it if you don't have that. Are people going to buy? So it's a very big problem.

And the problem I have is that there are many places throughout the country that are in the exact opposite position. And they consider that a gift to the State and a gift to the people. And we know New York does things that a lot of people don't read about. You look at what—the money they contribute to our economy, to our country, and people don't know about that. They don't maybe want to know about that. So you do have, I call it, a tale of two cities. You have different interests.

But I am watching over everybody, Jerry. You're in good hands, okay?

Mr. Speyer. Thank you.

The President. You're in good hands, believe me. You can tell the people of New York. Even though I didn't win New York State. I should have won New York State, but I didn't. [Laughter] Deloitte Chief Executive Officer Catherine Engelbert. Mr. President, Cathy Engelbert with Deloitte.

The President. Sure. Hi, Cathy.

Ms. Engelbert. I want to return to a conversation we just had with Ivanka, Dina, and Wilbur on jobs, the workforce of the future. And so as we think about that and we think about our skillsets, in New York City alone our high school—public high school graduation rate is at 70 percent, but the readiness of our students for college and careers is only 37—it's assessed at 37 percent.

So as we look at the pace of change, we look at the digital transformation we all see in business and the marketplace, and we look at the skills that we—this disconnect between what employers need and what our students coming into our workforces are prepared to deliver. And it would be great to get your thoughts on the priorities of the administration around education, around, again, what I like to call not the future of work, but the work of the future. Because the future of work sounds a little ominous, but the work of the future actually sounds pretty visionary.

The President. Right.

Ms. Engelbert. So if you could give us those priorities and how readiness fits in there.

The President. Okay, so before you sit, so you're giving me numbers from New York. You're a proud New Yorker, but you're giving me numbers—why is it doing so badly? Tell me. Why is—why are the numbers so horrific in terms of education? And what happens when somebody goes through school and then they can't read after the—they graduate from high school, and they can barely read. So what's the answer?

Ms. Engelbert. Yes. So, first, I would say that as we look at New York, New York has made enormous progress in a decade. By the way, that 70 percent was 50 percent, so a 40 percent increase. So we're making enormous progress in making an impact on——

The President. See how quickly she's changing? See that, Billy? [Laughter]

Ms. Engelbert. Making enormous progress, but we're not done. We have a lot of work to do. And I think—we talked earlier about public-private partnerships, apprenticeship models, which—we have a beautiful apprenticeship model that works and brings them our next generation of leaders. So I do think there's a lot we can do through relooking at funding programs. We talked earlier about consolidating the many programs that are out there. We're all trying to make our individual impact, and we can make a huge impact together.

The President. Sure. I know you work very hard on it, and you have made progress. Charter schools are another thing that people are talking about a lot, and some of the charter schools in New York have been amazing. They've done incredibly well. People can't get in. I mean, you can't get in. It's been—I don't call it an experiment anymore; it's far beyond an experiment.

If you look at so many elements of education, and it's so sad to see what's coming—what's happening in the country. Even the numbers, as good—you say we're doing better, but the numbers in New York, the numbers in Chicago, are very rough. The numbers in Los Angeles—the cities, it's a very rough situation. Common Core—I mean, we have to bring education more local. We can't be managing education from Washington. When I go out to Iowa, when I go out to the different States and I talk, they want to run their school programs locally, and they'll do a much better job than somebody—and look, these are some very good people in Washington, but you also have bureaucrats that make a lot of money and don't really care that much about what they're doing or about the community that they have never seen and they'll never meet and they never will see.

And I like the fact of getting rid of—Common Core to me is—we have to end it. We have to bring education local. To me, I've always said it; I've been saying it during the campaign. And we're doing it. Betsy DeVos is—she's doing a terrific job, highly respected, tremendous track record. But she's got one of the toughest jobs of any of our Secretaries, to me. She's got one of the toughest jobs. There's some pretty tough jobs out there, but she's got one of the toughest jobs.

We're going to spend a lot of money and a lot of expertise. We're going to have great talent having to do with education, because there's nothing more important than education. And we've got to get those numbers in New York better, and I think they will be better. And a lot of people—a lot of the greatest people I know in New York, they're totally in love, including Ivanka and Jared, they're so much involved, and it's so important to them, the word "education." And it's happening, and I see it happening in New York very much.

But it's happening elsewhere too. I think we're going to have a great 4 years.

Mr. Cordish. Mr. President, I know you have——

The President. ——prior to running again.

Mr. Cordish. ——a pressing issue to deal with. Steve and Mike I think just wanted to thank you for attending today, and maybe make a final comment on behalf of the round two.

Blackstone Group Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Cofounder Stephen A. Schwarzman. Well, thanks a lot for being here. And thanks for everybody for being here. It's been a really interesting day, and you've had everybody of importance at the event. I think it's terrific in terms of the stuff you're trying to do to modernize the Government, educate, and so forth. And I think we have to keep a focus on that, because the outside world doesn't always get the message that that's really what's going on. Because you're doing profound things, taking on enormous embedded issues.

And I think with the kind of effort that can be marshaled, you can do amazing things. And that's on behalf of Mike Corbat and myself who chair the Partnership—it's sort of trust, and gets rotated from person to person every 2 years.

I want to wish you really good luck with the Chinese. That's an important thing, as we all know. And I think there's a real opportunity to make progress with them. And you should have a good time in Florida. I hope the weather is good. [Laughter]

The President. Yes, the weather will be beautiful. Thank you, Steve.

I just want to finish by saying that we are absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads over not 8 years, over the last 20 and 25 years. You have regulations that are horrendous. Dodd-Frank is an example of what we're working on, and we're working on it right now. We're going to be coming out with some very strong, not—far beyond recommendations—we're going to be doing things that are going to be very good for the banking industry so that the banks can loan money to people that need it. I speak to people all the time. They used to borrow money from banks to open up—there was one in Nevada—to open up a pizza shop here, he had three shops—he had a bank, and he said, you know—at that time he called me Mr. Trump because I hadn't won yet—but he said: "Mr. Trump, I can't open up anything; I can't do anything. The banks don't even—I had a bank for 20 years; now they don't even take my phone call. And I was always a very good customer. So I haven't been able to do what I do." They can't do it. I mean, the banks got so restricted.

And I've always said—and some people get insulted—but it's not necessarily the man that's making a lot of money that's running the bank. You look at the folks from Government that are running all over the banks, they're running the banks. And the people that are really the head people, they're petrified of the regulators. They're petrified. They can't move. The regulators are running the banks.

So we're going to do a very major haircut on Dodd-Frank. We want strong restrictions, we want strong regulation, but not regulation that makes it impossible for the banks to loan to people that are going to create jobs. But we're doing—that's just one example. We're doing so many cuts on regulations. And we have a book on regulations, and if you add them all up, it goes up to the ceiling three times over. It's just one after another after another. It's just like that chart. I thought that chart was so descriptive. And every industry is just like that chart, and that's to build a simple roadway or highway; that's what you have to go through. And we're going to be able to get rid of 90, 95 percent of that and still have the same kind of protection.

And we want safety, and we want environmental—we want environmental protection. I mean, I've won awards on environmental protection. I'm a big believer, believe it or not. But we want that kind of protection. We want clean air, and we want clean water, but we shouldn't have to get the approvals from 16 different agencies for almost the same thing.

So we have a country with tremendous potential. We have the greatest people on Earth, but we have to use that potential, and we have to let those people do their thing.

And with that, I just want to thank you all. I think you're going to see a very much different environment than you've been used to over the last, again, 20, 25 years. We're going to unleash the country. And I'm willing to take the heat, and that's okay. I've been taking heat my whole life. But in the end, I know it's the right thing to do.

And we're going to create a lot of jobs. We have a hundred million people, if you look; the real number is not 4.6 percent. They told me I had 4.6 percent last month, I'm doing great. I said, yes, but what about the hundred million people. A lot of those people came out and voted for me. I call them the forgotten man, the forgotten woman. But a lot of those people, a good percentage of them, would like to have jobs, and they don't.

One of the statistics that to me is just ridiculous—so the 4.6 sounds good, but when you look for a job, you can't find it and you give up, you are now considered statistically employed. But I don't consider those people employed. If you look at what's happened with Ford and with General Motors and with Fiat Chrysler and so many other car companies, you see what they're doing back in Michigan and Ohio—they were leaving. They were going to Mexico and many other places. They're now staying here.

Now, I did say—Reed knows this very well, because you've seen me say it many times to the big auto companies at meetings—it's okay, enjoy your new plant; please send me a picture, I'm sure it's going to be lovely. But when you make your car or when you make your air conditioner, and you think you're going to fire all of our workers and open up a new place in another country, and you're going to come through our, what will be a very strong border, which is already—you see what's happened; 61 percent down now in terms of illegal people coming in. Way, way down in terms of drugs pouring into our country and poisoning our youth. Way down. General Kelly has done a great job. But when you think you're going to sell that car or that air conditioner through our border, it's not going to happen. You're going to have a tax. And the tax may be 35 percent.

And you know what, every single major company that I've had that conversation with has said, you know, we've decided to stay in the United States. It's amazing. And you would have thought they would have said this, frankly, for years. But nobody has ever said it. And we've lost close to 70,000 factories over a relatively short period of time—70,000. You wouldn't believe it's possible, Reed, to lose 70,000 factories—70,000. You know, you look at a map of the United States, how many factories can you lose? We lost almost 70,000 factories.

And I will tell you, that's not happening, because now they're staying here, and they're all expanding here. Ford announced last week a massive expansion of three of its plants. That was not going to happen, believe me, if I didn't win.

So good luck, everybody. Enjoy yourselves. You're my friends. You're amazing people. And we're going to put you to work. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 10:50 a.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Vice President Michael R. Pence in his capacity as former Governor of Indiana; Assistant to the President Ivanka M. Trump; President Xi Jinping of China; National Economic Council Director Gary D. Cohn; Steven Roth, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Vornado Realty Trust; Richard LeFrak, chairman and chief executive officer, LeFrak Organization; Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao; Secretary of Education Elisabeth P. DeVos; White House Senior Adviser Jared C. Kushner; and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly. He also referred to Mr. Schwarzman in his capacity as the Chairman of the President's Strategic and Policy Forum. Mr. Cordish referred to Supreme Court Associate Justice-designate Neil M. Gorsuch. Ms. Engelbert referred to Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Habib Powell; and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. Mr. Schwarzman referred to Michael L. Corbat, chief executive officer Citigroup Inc., in his capacity as cochair of the Partnership for New York City. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Vice President Pence, who introduced the President.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a CEO Town Hall Meeting on the United States Business Climate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives