Beijing sets up advisory body with multinationals
Li Keqiang holds first meeting with members of CEO council representing 14 global corporations
Beijing has for the first time established an advisory council of multinational heavyweights to help the leadership keep a finger on the pulse of major corporations in vital industries.
Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday held the first meeting with members of the new "Global CEO Advisory Council" - consisting of 14 business leaders who include the heads of Time Warner, IBM and Dell.
While Li's predecessors Wen Jiabao and Zhu Rongji regularly sought contact with Western corporate executives and attended economic forums, this is the first time Beijing has established a mechanism in which global business leaders can have regular, private talks with top mainland officials.
"The council will discuss issues related to globalisation and sustainable development with the Chinese government," said Christoph Ludewig, a Volkswagen China spokesman.
Martin Winterkorn, chairman of Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, attended the meeting with Li in Beijing. He told European media the group discussed China's strategy to develop its central and western regions.
This came as China and its largest trading partner, the European Union, are bickering about import tariffs and accusing each other of protectionism. Trade restrictions will also rank high on the agenda when President Xi Jinping meets his US counterpart Barack Obama in California at the weekend.
The council "should give an opportunity for frank face-to-face talks", Han Qide, a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress said.
The mechanism will give Beijing a platform to directly lobby influential multinational leaders across different sectors in future trade disputes.
Representatives of the world's largest mining company BHP Billiton, the French retailer Carrefour, the world's largest maker of vitamins Royal DSM and Standard Chartered Bank are members of the council, which is expected to meet once a year.