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Trump meets with retail CEOs to talk taxes, imports
















By Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called tax code revisions a critical way to boost the nation's economy as he kicked off a White House meeting with chief executive officers of Target Corp <TGT.N>, Best Buy Co Inc <BBY.N> and six other major retailers.

The retailers spoke with Trump about an overhaul of the corporate tax law and infrastructure improvements. While companies like Best Buy and Target support changes to the tax code, they urged Trump to oppose a proposal for a new border tax on imported goods.

The border tax is among sweeping changes proposed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Convincing Trump to oppose the measure would probably bring an end to it.

Trump had said on Thursday that he would announce his own "phenomenal" tax plan in the coming weeks. U.S. stocks hit record intraday highs, and the U.S. dollar and bond yields rose.

At Wednesday's meeting, Trump said work on a tax plan was going "really well" but gave no details except to say it would simplify the tax code.

The meeting included Target's Brian Cornell, Best Buy's Hubert Joly, Gap Inc's <GPS.N> Art Peck, Autozone Inc's <AZO.N> William Rhodes, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc's <WBA.O> Stefano Pessina, J.C. Penney Co Inc's <JCP.N> Marvin Ellison, Jo-Ann Stores' Jill Soltau and Tractor Supply Co's <TSCO.O> Gregory Sandfort.

“We stressed the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to tax reform for both individuals and corporations," Rhodes said after the meeting.

The group also met with the heads of the two tax-writing congressional committees, Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Brady and House Speaker Paul Ryan are leading the push to cut the corporate income tax to 20 percent from 35 percent, impose a 20 percent tax on imports and exclude export revenue from taxable income.

Companies that rely heavily on imports, such as retailers, automakers and refiners, say House Republicans' border tax would outweigh the benefit of a lower headline corporate tax. Critics also say the tax would lead to higher consumer prices for imported products.

Trump has voiced some concern about the House tax proposal, calling it "too complicated." But the White House also has said a border tax on goods from Mexico is one option under review to pay for a wall along the nation's southern border.

"Tax reform is one of the best opportunities to influence our economy," Trump said in brief opening remarks that included no mention of the border tax idea.

The prospect of a big import tax is also pitting large U.S. companies against one another. A group of major exporters, including Boeing Co <BA.N>, General Electric Co <GE.N> and Pfizer Inc <PFE.N>, has formed a coalition to support the import tax.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker)