July 12, 2018 / 10:24 AM / 5 days ago

Breakingviews - Dos and don’ts for UK CEOs meeting Trump

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK will include a dinner at Blenheim Palace on Thursday with business leaders. Corporate bosses stateside have achieved mixed results – from public praise to Twitter blowback – after public appearances with Trump. Breakingviews offers some advice to the bosses of BP, Shell, Barclays and other domestic peers invited to attend the event.

People inflate a helium filled Donald Trump blimp which they hope to deploy during The President of the United States' upcoming visit, in London, Britain, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/

DO turn up. It’s a rare opportunity to bend the ear of the leader of the world’s largest economy. When you strike that drilling deal in the Permian next year, or cheaply settle that tricky Department of Justice anti-corruption case, shareholders will thank you for it.

DON’T forget that it’s also an opportunity to unwittingly associate yourself with hostility to immigrants, nativism, and protectionism, all of which you as a global business leader would presumably disavow. Or the fact it may lead to your head office being encircled by irate protesters.

DO break the ice by saying how much you like golf. The president has spent 125 days at a Trump golf property since taking office, NBC News estimates.

DON’T say how much you like renewable energy. Trump became embroiled in a protracted dispute with the Scottish government over an offshore wind development near his Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.

DO spuriously recycle positive news. Find that press release for literally anything your company has announced within the past 20 years that even tangentially entailed investing in factories, premises or people in the United States, edit it to attribute the move to Trump’s welcoming policies, and reissue it. (See SoftBank, Sprint et al.)

DON’T subsequently change your mind. A bit of flattery may get you somewhere with Trump, but reverse course at your peril. Harley-Davidson executives were once welcomed at the White House, but now that they’ve complained about his trade tariffs he’s calling them losers on Twitter. You could be next.

DO loudly assert oil prices are too high. Since April Trump has been slagging off OPEC for contributing to crude’s current $75 a barrel level.

(Shell’s Ben van Beurden and BP’s Bob Dudley might like to visit the bathroom at this point.)

DON’T point out that Trump’s sanctions on Iran will help keep prices high.

DO reveal that you attended Dulwich College with Nigel Farage, or Eton with Boris Johnson. Trump likes both these fans of Brexit.

DON’T report back at your next dinner party with pro-European neighbours that you did so.

DO mention your lifelong fondness for “The Apprentice”, gold interiors, Australian golfer Greg Norman and WWE wrestling.

DON’T mention Angela Merkel, climate change awareness, tough UK gun laws, Robert Mueller, the Trump baby blimp, Russia, China, Venezuela, Amazon, Steve Bannon, asylum seekers, or anything alluding however obliquely to the incarceration of infants. Or your dinner 24 hours previously with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Breakingviews

Reuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.


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