Carlos Slim slips into D.C. to huddle with top government officials
Slim was in the U.S. capital to discuss a wide array of issues, but he’s also attracted recent scrutiny for his business dealings. (Wikipedia: Agência Brasil)
Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim sneaked into Washington, D.C. this week for a series of closed-door meetings with top government officials.
Slim, who is the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $63 billion, met with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Monday behind closed doors.
“Secretary Napolitano met with Mr. Slim on Monday to discuss a number of security-related issues and underscore the Department of Homeland Security’s commitment to continuing our close relationship with Mexican partners to facilitate lawful travel and trade that supports our economy,” according to DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler.
A spokesperson for Kirk would only say that the two met to discuss “various issues of mutual interest.”
Other top officials and lawmakers Slim met with include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), according to a press release issued by Slim’s office after the conclusion of his visit.
Slim participated in a Tuesday afternoon roundtable discussion about telecommunications issues, such as broadband, at the State Department. One of the participants was U.S. Undersecretary for Economic, Energy and Agriultural Affairs Robert Hormats.
According to the State Department, the meeting was scheduled to discuss Slim’s role as co-chairman of the ITU/UNESCO-sponsored Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which has issued reports on how broadband can positively impact services like education and healthcare. The report will be featured in work at the U.N. General Assembly meeting and at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September
“The reports also have emphasized that broadband has great significance in advancing toward achievement of the millennium development goals,” according to a readout from the department. “The meeting was designed to explore the commission’s conclusions and its work program for 2012 in light of the development opportunities it has identified.”
While the brief, low-key visit was scheduled to discuss Slim’s humanitarian ventures, the telecom magnate has recently attracted international scrutiny over his business dealings.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report last week that claimed that companies owned by Slim, Telmex and América Móvil, have used monopolistic practices that overcharge customers and hinder economic growth in Mexico.
Mexicans overpaid by more than $13 billion per year in phone services and internet connection fees, according to the report. Slim’s two telecom giants, which received most of the money, control 80 percent of the landline market and 70 percent of the mobile phone market in Mexico.
Slim denied that he’s running a monopoly and accused the OECD of drawing false conclusions from outdated information. OECD’s figures are based on data through 2009.
“In a business [like telecommunications] where things grow so fast … they should use 2011 numbers, because there has been strong growth [in the sector], and some services have evolved and the prices for some packages have changed,” Slim said.
Manuel Rueda contributed to this post.
This post was updated at 11:40 PM.