UPDATED: Disney CEO Bob Iger called his participation on a panel advising President Donald Trump on business issues “a great opportunity” that will allow him to influence the new administration on issues like lowering corporate tax rates.
While members of Trump’s strategic and policy advisory committee have come under fire for working with the new president (Uber founder Travis Kalanick even dropped out of the panel following a boycott of his ride-hailing service), Iger told CNBC that he thought there was much to gain for both sides.
The Disney boss also passed on an opportunity to directly criticize Trump’s policy temporarily banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations, though he did speak about the importance of allowing people from other countries into the U.S.
“This nation was founded by immigrants and I believe where we are as a nation is due to having an openness to the people of the world,” Iger told CNBC host Julia Boorstin. “It’s incredibly important. And I happen to firmly believe we cannot shut our borders to immigrants. And so I think a fair and just immigration policy is good for our country and good for society.”
Iger said he coveted the chance to speak for not only his company but the entertainment industry, since he is the only Hollywood representative on the panel.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the president to hear from the business community,” Iger said, “and as a member of the business community it’s a great opportunity for me to have a direct pipeline to the president and the senior members of his team.”
Asked about what he saw as his role on the economic advisory panel, Iger raised several issues he hoped to address.
“I have, I think, a real strong, good opportunity to be the sole representative of our industry on a number of very important issues: intellectual property protection, trade-related issues specifically for Disney and, obviously, any changes in the tax law could have a profound impact on our bottom line,” he said.
On the latter point, Iger added: “The [U.S.] corporate tax rate is the highest in the world and we [at Disney] pay a very high corporate tax rate. And I believe it is time for that to be reexamined and that potentially could be a real boon to the Walt Disney Company.”
Iger gave the interview just after reporting Disney’s first quarter earnings for 2017. The report showed booming results for Disney’s theme parks, including the Shanghai resort that opened last June. Iger said the park had at times reached its 65,000-person daily capacity and, during those periods, sold five tons of rice daily at the park’s restaurants.
Iger was asked if Trump’s confrontational approach with the Chinese threatens Disney’s success in the Middle Kingdom.
“I don’t know that we know for sure what President Trump’s approach is,” Iger responded. He added that America’s business leaders know that “trading with China is really important,” adding: “The relationship this company has with China is really important both from a movie perspective, from a parks perspective, from a consumer products perspective. An all-out trade war with China would be damaging, I think … to Disney’s business and to business in general. I think it’s something we are going to have to be really careful about.”