A Path Through the Gridlock

December 22, 2016, 11:30 AM UTC
Pope Francis greets Time editor-inchief Nancy Gibbs and Fortune’s Alan Murray in December.

It’s remarkable how quickly business attitudes toward Donald Trump have shifted since the election. When we surveyed CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in the spring, only 42% supported him, while 58% supported Hillary Clinton. Today they’re lining up to visit Trump Tower, the New York seat of the government-in-waiting.

That’s partly the normal turn that happens after American elections. Since the founding of the republic, we have devoutly honored the peaceful transition of presidential power. Business leaders have been particularly attentive, knowing a new leader’s ability to affect their fortunes. But something more is happening this time. This President-elect appears to have the first opportunity in a decade to break through Washington gridlock and get stuff done. And some of that stuff could be a boon to business.

Top of that list is a corporate tax deal that will allow big companies like Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), General Electric (GE), Pfizer (PFE), IBM (IBM), and others to repatriate (at a lower tax rate) some of the $2.5 trillion in cash they have stashed overseas—a deal that would juice their bottom lines. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a hoard of repatriated cash won’t change the fundamental forces that have gutted the nation’s middle class.

Nor will renegotiated trade deals. Those 800 jobs at the Carrier air-conditioning plant that Trump saved almost certainly will be gone a decade from now—lost to automation, not trade. But while the rapid march of technology is fuel for continuing social discontent, it is also our ticket to a more prosperous future. And that is something Trump has got to understand—and convey to the American people—for a true renaissance in the economy to happen.

What can business do to ensure that this technological rebirth is a blessing for most, if not all, of the world’s citizens? That’s one of the questions we wrestled with at the Fortune + Time Global Forum in Rome last month. In a world where divisive politics are derailing governments, the Rome forum was dedicated to the idea that business can play a bigger role in solving social problems. The nearly 100 CEOs who gathered there are committed to the notion that their pursuit of profit can be harnessed to solve many of the world’s most pressing challenges. They jointly agreed to a series of steps that would make addressing them a core part of their business strategies.

For more on the Global Forum, watch this Fortune video:

You can read more about this extraordinary gathering, and our meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis, here. For me, the event was an optimistic ending to 2016. Whatever happens in Washington in 2017, we are moving toward a new model of business leadership that has the potential to change the world.

Enjoy the New Year!

A version of this article appears in the January 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “A Path Through the Gridlock.”

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