Obama Meets With Wal-Mart’s Duke to Discuss Economy

President Barack Obama met today with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke and former Procter & Gamble Co. CEO Alan Lafley at the White House as part of an outreach to U.S. businesses.

The Duke meeting was initiated by the administration, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. It is one of a series of sessions aimed at soliciting the views of some of the nation’s largest employers on efforts to spur the recovery of the U.S. economy, he said.

“Getting the insight and the ideas of those that employ so many is important to the economic decision-making that the president and the team will have to make,” Gibbs said.

Obama and Duke met in the Oval Office for about 40 minutes. Arriving at the White House, Duke declined to answer questions about the agenda. “We’re just going to have a nice visit,” he said.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest retailer and the largest private U.S. employer, with about 1.4 million workers in its home country. It is also seeking to expand outside the U.S., particularly in China. Duke, 60, took over as chief executive in 2009.

Obama met separately later with Lafley to talk about the economy, an administration official said on the condition of anonymity. Lafley, 63, was an executive at Procter & Gamble for more than 30 years, including 10 as chief executive, before leaving the company earlier this year.

Midterm Vote

Obama is stepping up his engagement with the business community following this month’s midterm elections in which his party lost control of the U.S. House and saw its majority narrowed in the Senate. Some executives and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have criticized Obama on issues including taxes and regulations.

Obama blamed the election results on voters frustrated with the weak economy. The nation’s unemployment rate has remained at 9.5 percent or higher for more than a year.

The president is considering an invitation to speak before the Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group, as well as naming a corporate executive to a senior administration post. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Obama hasn’t had a prominent corporate leader in a high-level administration job.

During his first two years in office Obama has regularly met with business leaders, hosting many at White House lunches. On July 14 he met with Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett to discuss the economy.

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