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Trump Meets With Retail CEOs to Discuss Taxes, Jobs, And Economy

Don't wall off our imports, retail execs told Trump.
Image: President Donald Trump looks on during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 10, 2017.
President Donald Trump looks on during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 10, 2017.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

President Donald J. Trump met with eight retail CEOs this morning to discuss border taxes, trade, and infrastructure spending.

Afterward Trump said tax reform is a "great way" to reform the economy. He also pledged to lower corporate tax rates substantially and to remove regulations that cost jobs.

"My administration remains very focused on economic growth issues," he told reporters.

Autozone CEO William Rhodes, speaking later on behalf of the other CEOs later, highlighted the 42 million jobs retail industry provides and their concerns over the impact of the proposed policy shifts to "our industry, our employees and American working families."

“We stressed the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to tax reform for both individuals and corporations," said Rhodes. "The President understands we support pro-growth policies that we believe will lead to greater domestic investment."

A prime topic of conversation for retailers was pushing back against controversial plans to raise taxes on imports, according to people with knowledge of the meeting.

"This is a plan that we think is risky and unproven," said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation, the industry's main trade group. "We would urge them to reconsider this approach."

The meeting which started at 10:15 a.m. included Target CEO Brian Cornell, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, Gap CEO Art Peck, Autozone CEO William Rhodes, Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina, J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison, Jo-Ann Stores CEO Jill Soltau and Tractor Supply Company CEO Gregory Sandfort.

Beforehand, Target's CEO told CNBC he expected a "productive meeting."

The retailers are also on Capitol Hill to press their case with elected representative on other issues, including reducing corporate taxes.

“Retailers are in Washington meeting with both members of Congress and President Trump because they are on the front lines of the consumer-driven U.S. economy," said David French, SVP of government relations for the National Retail Federation, in a statement to NBC News.

"Currently, the House proposal for a border adjustment tax would drive up prices paid by American consumers, significantly impact the consumer spending that makes up two-thirds of our nation’s economy and threatens tens of millions of jobs supported by the retail industry."

Trump's relationship with retailers has been on the rocks lately after several have trimmed their Trump product lines for performance concerns.

In particular, the president slammed Nordstrom on Twitter after it announced it wasn't buying his daughter Ivanka Trump's clothing line for the next season.

U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in January and the consumer price index, a key measure of inflation, saw its largest increase in four years, according to government figures.