WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will host a summit of corporate chief executives on Wednesday as his administration steps up efforts to mend relations with big business and win their support for his economic policies.
The meeting with 20 business leaders could also help build momentum for a compromise tax package he has worked out with resurgent Republicans but which is facing resistance from within the ranks of his own Democrats.
Among the companies expected to be represented are Google (GOOG.O), Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O), International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N), American Express Co (AXP.N), Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N) and Pepsico Inc PEP.N.
Since his Democrats’ crushing defeat in last month’s congressional elections, Obama has sought to make amends with business after his ties with corporate America became strained over businesses’ concerns about his healthcare overhaul, regulatory reforms and high U.S. deficits.
The White House believes extending an olive branch to business will help the economy by boosting confidence and encouraging firms to invest some $2 trillion in cash they have kept on the sidelines.
“The biggest challenge we face moving forward is not competition between Democrats and Republicans, but in making sure we are preparing the next generation to compete globally,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“The working session is an opportunity for the president to continue building strong partnerships in the business community toward that goal,” she said. The conference will take place at Blair House, adjacent to the White House.
The summit agenda will include international trade in addition to “taking a serious approach to our medium and long-term federal deficits, tax reform and a balanced approach to regulation that will promote, rather than undermine, economic growth,” an administration official said.
The business community has taken a mostly favorable view of the tax deal Obama reached with Republicans earlier this week for extending all Bush-era tax cuts. A proposed payroll tax holiday is especially popular among companies.
Liberal Democrats have complained, however, that Obama is making too many concessions in tax breaks for the wealthy.
Businesses have long complained about the corporate tax structure and say it puts them at a competitive disadvantage globally. They have been enthusiastic about the idea of reform, something Obama has signaled an interest in tackling.
After the November 2 congressional elections, Obama said he had to do a better job dealing with the business community. As part of the effort to mend fences, Obama is considering delivering a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in January.
The White House and the chamber became bitter foes during the election campaign over the chamber’s aggressive fund-raising to defeat Democrats.
Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Vicki Allen