White House Convenes Tech Leaders for Summit

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Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, center, arrives to the White House for a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., Dec. 6, 2018. The event centered on artificial intelligence and signaled an easing of tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, center, arrives to the White House for a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., Dec. 6, 2018. The event centered on artificial intelligence and signaled an easing of tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley.


Photo:

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON—Tech leaders discussed at the White House on Thursday closer collaboration with the government on artificial intelligence and support for U.S. workers likely to be impacted by its rise.

President Trump briefly joined the meeting, which marked an easing of tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley. Tech-industry executives have been critical of Mr. Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change since his election.

Ivanka Trump helped convene the roundtable with the chief executives, including Microsoft Corp.’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet Inc. unit Google’s Sundar Pichai, International Business Machines Corp.’s Ginni Rometty, Oracle Corp.’s Safra Catz and Qualcomm Inc.’s Steve Mollenkopf. Other notable attendees included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The summit’s theme was “Industries of the Future.” It was intended to be a listening session for tech leaders to share policy ideas, a senior administration official said. In addition to the topic of artificial intelligence, the agenda featured 5G wireless technology, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing and initiatives to boost U.S. science, technology, engineering and math education.

“We had a productive and engaging discussion at the White House today about America’s leadership in emerging technologies,” Mr. Pichai said.

AI, a growth area for U.S. businesses, is expected to put millions of truck drivers, retail cashiers and other American workers out of a job. Ms. Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, has spearheaded White House initiatives to better equip these workers for the future, including providing data to job seekers and asking companies to invest in skills training. AI has emerged as one of the areas at the center of intensifying competition between the U.S. and China for global technological supremacy.

Three of the world’s largest tech firms and AI leaders—Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc.—were absent from the discussion. The senior administration official said those companies weren’t invited to the event. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently discussed tech policy issues with Ms. Trump over breakfast in Idaho, the administration official said.

A spokesman for

Facebook

confirmed the company wasn’t invited to the roundtable. Representatives for Amazon and Apple declined to comment.

The White House previously held a discussion on AI in May, where technology adviser Michael Kratsios pledged that the administration would make a priority of advancing artificial-intelligence research through greater funding and other steps.

Tech CEOs emerged as critics of Mr. Trump’s policies early in his term in office. Google and Microsoft joined dozens of technology companies in February 2017 challenging President Trump’s original travel ban, which barred visitors and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

IBM’s Ms. Rometty was part of a group of more than 60 business leaders who wrote a letter in August of this year criticizing a U.S. immigration system they said was unfair to the highly-skilled employees who make up a significant part of their workforce.

Also in August, tensions between Google and Mr. Trump escalated after the president accused the search giant of elevating critical news stories about his presidency at the expense of friendly conservative voices. Google said at the time its search results aren’t biased toward a particular political ideology.

Google’s Mr. Pichai is preparing to testify at a House hearing next week, where he is expected to be asked about anticonservative bias, as well as about lawmakers’ concerns around data privacy and the company’s development of a search engine that would comply with China’s internet censors.

Write to Douglas MacMillan at douglas.macmillan@wsj.com