Nation & World

CEOs meet with China's premier amid trade woes

Li Keqiang promises to open more of China's economy

Reuters

“We all employ and train people in China,” says Jean Pascal Tricoire (left), chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric, who was among the CEOs to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during seventh Round-Table Summit of the Global CEO Council in Beijing on Thursday.
Reuters “We all employ and train people in China,” says Jean Pascal Tricoire (left), chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric, who was among the CEOs to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during seventh Round-Table Summit of the Global CEO Council in Beijing on Thursday.

A group of chief executive officers of American corporations are in Beijing this week to meet with China’s Premier Li Keqiang, as the simmering trade war ensnares companies from both countries.

The heads of chemical giant Dow, United Parcel Service, drugmaker Pfizer, Hyatt Hotels, property developer Prologis and Honeywell International met with Li at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People — home to the nation’s legislature — on Thursday, according to a statement released by the Chinese government.

Also at the meeting were 13 other global business leaders, including the heads of Volkswagen AG, Australian miner BHP Group and Nokia.

The visit comes as the geopolitical tensions between the two powers enter a new phase. Since trade talks broke off in May, U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered additional tariffs on Chinese goods, blocked local champion Huawei Technologies and threatened to widen a ban to Chinese video-surveillance companies.

Meanwhile, Beijing has clamped down on American corporations from Ford Motor to FedEx and said it will create a blacklist of foreign companies that damage their Chinese counterparts.

At the meeting, Li promised to open up more sectors of China’s economy to foreign investment, noting that the businesses in attendance had both contributed to China’s economic development and profited from the local market.

The premier also reminded the companies of the scale of China’s consumer market and in an oblique reference to the country’s dominant position in the production of many goods, asked them to consider the current uncertainties over trade from the perspective of the global industrial supply chain.

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The CEOs are in the Chinese capital at a key moment, a week before Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping are set to meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

The company chieftains’ visit was scheduled ahead of time and isn’t necessarily a response to the tensions between the United States and China over trade, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg ahead of the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the group — which had photos taken with Li afterward — Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO of France’s Schneider Electric SE, stressed the contribution the companies in the room made to China.

“We all employ and train people in China,” he said. “We all innovate in China.”

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