What Trump Means for Tech

Photo: Getty/Drew AngererPhoto: Getty/Drew Angerer

On the eve of Trump’s election, the markets leapt into disarray. First they were falling then they were rising, accelerating onwards for months and even recently closing out the Dow Jones at 20,000 for the first time in history. The stock markets were revving forward, but one industry seemed to be missing out: technology.

In the wake of Trump’s newborn presidency, tech stocks slumped across the board. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet all fell at least 1.9% each within 48 hours of Trump’s election, and questions about how Trump’s trade policy could affect multinational corporations were rampant. Much of the industry was concerned that Trump’s relatively hostile attitude towards the tech sector would create irreparable problems in the way they conducted business, sourced talent, and manufactured their goods and services. Many of those questions still exist today, but those stocks, and the Nasdaq 100 as a whole, have mostly rebounded since then.

But glaring questions still remain over what President Trump means for tech. Industry-specific market shocks resulting from many of Trump’s wild-card executive orders remain a reality on the Monday following the signature of Trump’s travel ban, the five biggest tech companies shed $32 billion in value, rippling across the industry and sparking outrage. Repeated shocks to tech (and to the economy as a whole) over controversial executive actions which Trump has made clear he has no signs of stopping could disrupt much of the tech sector and leave it weakened and cautious for years to come. The clearest example of this comes from how the travel ban disproportionately affected the workforce of tech giants like Microsoft and Google, which have large numbers of programmers and innovators from foreign backgrounds (including many Muslim countries Google alone said it had 187 workers affected by the travel ban) and who would be trapped abroad in the event of an approval of Trump’s restrictions.

It also still remains to be seen how Trump will interact with leaders of what’s arguably one of the most important industries in the country. Though he’s met with some of them to varying degrees of success, various tech leaders have voiced their anger, sadness, and displeasure with him, raising questions over how he’ll be able to effectively work with an industry that makes up 7.1% of the nation’s GDP. The travel ban was a particularly sore spot, which Netflix CEO Reed Hastings denounced as “so un-American it pains us all.” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, too, went as far as offering free housing to anyone displaced by the ban, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised that the company would continue to make its opposition to the ban “known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.” Even Elon Musk, a personal adviser to Trump and the leader of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, was blunt in his disagreement with the ban, stating that it “is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.”

With all of the opposition to Trump in the industry, it’s difficult to imagine an easy resolution any time soon. The stark reality of Trump’s trade policy is weighing down on many of the nation’s largest companies, especially those like Apple, which source the majority of their raw materials and manufacturing operations abroad. Recurring uncertainty in the industry has already damaged investor confidence there, as shown by dips like the one that happened after Trump signed his travel ban. In the end, the tech sector is one of the most important elements of the American economy and Trump needs to do more to facilitate its success.

 

About the Author

Will Kerwick
Will Kerwick is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance at Fordham University. He is an incoming full-time analyst in J.P. Morgan's Treasury Services division and has previous experience with Take-Two Interactive Software, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and Bank of America. As a columnist for the Fordham Political Review, he enjoys writing about economics, technology, culture, and foreign affairs.