Cook joins CEOs on revived Trump business advisory council

Some prominent American executives are signing on to advise the Trump administration, more than a year after the President’s equivocation on white supremacy triggered the dissolution of the White House’s business councils.

The American Workforce Policy Advisory Board will include top bosses from Walmart, Apple, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Visa, and Home Depot. The group’s creation was announced Wednesday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and senior adviser.

The goal is to develop job training programs and other methods to “revamp the American workforce to better meet the challenges of the 21st century,” according to a statement from the Commerce Department. It was created after Trump signed an executive order in July meant to address a skills gap between workers and employers.

Among the issues the panel will address are automation and artificial intelligence.

“We want all Americans to have the skills and opportunities to secure good paying jobs and successfully navigate technological disruptions and the rapidly changing nature of work,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement.

It marks a return for American corporations to formal advisory roles in the administration after executives fled a pair of councils following fatal clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

The exodus from the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum began after Trump delivered controversial remarks in which he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

The CEOs of Merck, Under Armour, Intel, 3M and Campbell Soup all said they were walking away from their White House affiliations. Trump, recognizing the trajectory, pre-emptively declared on Twitter he was disbanding the councils, which were organized with great fanfare early in his presidency, “rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople.”

The goal had been to hear corporate advice on creating jobs and boosting manufacturing, one of the President’s main agenda items.

Trump still maintains close relationships with business leaders whom he knows from his days as a real estate developer, and Ivanka Trump, along with her husband Jared Kushner, have cultivated close relationships with top corporate leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Cook has met and spoken with the President on several occasions, including at a dinner in August.

The list of executives on the new council announced on Wednesday does not include any CEOs who resigned in 2017, but it does include some members who sat on the panels but didn’t flee. That includes Ginni Rometty of IBM, Doug McMillon of Walmart, and Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin.