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Trump seeks economic ideas from J&J's Gorsky, 11 other biz leaders

Donald Trump started his first week as president by calling on 12 business leaders, including Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, to help the new U.S. commander-in-chief identify ways to create more American jobs and grow the nation's manufacturing base.

The Jan. 23 White House breakfast meeting was an opportunity for the new president to hear directly from America's top business leaders about the challenges they face and what policies and actions could be taken to help their firms, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Trump wants the industry chiefs from the dozen firms J&J, Dell, Whirlpool, Ford, Lockheed Martin, Arconic, Dow Chemical, U.S. Steel, Under Armour, International Paper, Corning and SpaceX to return in 30 days with a series of actions aimed at stimulating the manufacturing sector and boosting U.S. competitiveness.

The president said he plans to convene the group on a quarterly basis.

"I was very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the critical issues of job creation, corporate tax and regulatory reform directly with President Trump this morning," Gorsky, whose company sells products ranging from baby shampoo to prescription medicines, told S&P Global Market Intelligence in a statement. "The meeting was productive, and I'm looking forward to working with him and the new Congress to support the enactment of polices that will increase America’s growth and competitiveness in these areas."

At the meeting, Trump told the business leaders his administration was aiming to cut regulations by as much as 75%.

The White House on Jan. 20 instituted a freeze on federal agencies issuing new regulations — one of the new administration's first actions.

The FDA was among those agencies that may have anticipated a regulatory freeze was coming and issued numerous guidance documents in the first weeks of 2017. They included a much-anticipated one describing the path makers of lower-cost versions of biological medicines, known as biosimilars, must take to obtain the interchangeability designation, which permits those products to be substituted at the pharmacy for the higher-priced brand-name drugs.

Trump followed up the freeze on regulations by prohibiting federal agencies from hiring new employees.

"There's been, frankly, to some degree, a lack of respect for taxpayer dollars in this town for a long time and I think what the president's showing through the hiring freeze, first and foremost today, is that we've got to respect the American taxpayer," Spicer told reporters.

He said the administration was looking to eliminate duplicity in the federal workforce.

But the White House did not comment on how the freeze may impact federal agencies — specifically the FDA, which has been grappling with a shortage of scientists to review new drug applications.

The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research had more than 700 unfilled positions by the end of 2016.

The lack of those federal personnel could end up harming companies like J&J, which relies on the FDA to clear its products for the U.S. market. A delay in getting a product to the market could have an impact on the company's profits and potentially its ability to retain its workforce and create jobs.