The memo: Trump's attacks on GM raise concerns in the business world


President TrumpThe Donaldson TrumpVeterans Affairs Department said it would not reimburse underpaid veterans. The report of the former Clinton spokesman denounces to Ivanka Trump the defense of the use of private email: "Nothing less than the scandal" Sinclair defends a segment justifying the use of tear gas border as "comment" PLUSThe ferocious attacks on General Motors (GM) have raised new concerns in a business world grappling with a propensity to brand companies by name.

Amazon, Nordstrom, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have met several times under his presidency.

But its assault on GM has been particularly vigorous after the automaker announced this week the removal of nearly 14,000 jobs and the closure of factories in key states of Ohio and Michigan.

"Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, having closed factories in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing is closed in Mexico and China. The United States has saved General Motors and we are delighted! Trump said Tuesday, a day after the announcement of the news.

He also discussed the idea of ​​reducing the US government's subsidies to the automaker – an idea that had only been mentioned a few minutes before at the White House press conference by economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

Trump then picked up the message from a customer account: "If GM does not want to keep his job in the United States, he has to repay the $ 11.2 billion bailout funded by the US taxpayer."

On Wednesday, he went on to suggest that he could be open to new tariffs on auto imports.

GM had already complained about the problems caused by the president's tariffs on steel and aluminum.

In July, the automaker 's chief financial officer, Chuck Stevens, said, "The big challenge we are currently facing is raw materials, especially aluminum and steel," according to USA Today.

Overall, business figures are worried about the president's desire to blur CEOs and their companies.

"It bothers the business world and businesses are struggling to manage it, especially when the president's comments do not reflect a solid understanding of the company's situation," said a senior manager. important professional association, which asked for anonymity to speak frankly.

"They must not just react; in many cases, they must correct inaccurate statements of the President of the United States, "said the official.

An example cited by this and other sources is that of Harley Davidson's attack by Trump in June.

The president suggested that the legendary motorcycle manufacturer was using its tariffs and trade policy as an "excuse" to move its production out of the United States. In another tweet, he threatened the company with "not being able to resell in the United States without paying a large tax".

In fact, Harley Davidson motorcycles sold in the United States are manufactured here. The company decided to build and then expand a factory in Thailand to serve foreign markets. Separately, he had announced the closure of a Kansas City facility due to slowing domestic demand.

"The president was absolutely wrong about what was happening," said the head of the professional association. "It was an iconic American brand that was falsely attacked by an American president."

Other experts have pointed out how unusual it is for a president to formulate criticisms of specific companies.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, said that he could not think of anything comparable since former President Kennedy had attacked US Steel leaders in 1962 after announcing an increase in unexpected price.

Sonnenfeld also noted that some business leaders had taken a stand against Trump's positions on unrelated issues.

After Trump's deeply controversial response to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Merck chief executive Ken Frazier resigned almost immediately from a presidential advisory council.

Trump blasted Frazier on Twitter, but other corporate executives followed suit and the advisory board (and another, related) collapsed afterwards.

"We have witnessed collective actions among these very diffuse CEOs, to regroup when attacked," said Sonnenfeld.

Trump does not hide the fact that he thinks he is right in picking on companies that disliked him – and he presents his actions as a public defense against corporate power.

This argument may still have some populist power. But the loss of jobs could be seriously jeopardized, especially in the Rust Belt states that played a central role in Trump's victory in the 2016 elections.

"There is a real consequence in the part of the electoral map on which it is still looking very closely for 2020," said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at the university. Princeton University. "He does not want people to lose their jobs, he promised to keep them."

For Zelizer, Trump's approach puts CEOs in an almost impossible position.

"It seems the only way to appease him is to do nothing that embarrasses him," he said. "That's the only thing you have to avoid if you're a big business and [GM] just crossed this line. But it is really difficult for a company to make decisions based on that. "

The memo is a column of Niall Stanage, mainly devoted to the presidency of Donald Trump.

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