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Globalisation unpopular in the US: GE chief Jeffrey Immelt news
07 July 2007

Speaking at the India Institute of Technology Alumni 2007 Global Conference, at Silicon Valley, Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive, General Electric Co, has warned that if globalisation were put to a popular vote in the United States in the current political climate, it would be voted out.

"If you put globalisation up for a popular vote in the United States, I think it would lose 60 - 40," he told thousands of India''s top academic and business elite, responding to a moderator''s question on whether the internationalisation of the economy was likely to come under attack as the US presidential election cycle heats up.

US public acceptance of globalisation will depend on "Indians'' and India''s ability to figure out the win-win ... to figure out the ways that the whole pie gets bigger and (wealth) not just taken from one place to another," the GE chief cautioned.

He explained that the bottom 25 per cent of the US economic ladder has suffered from the "hollowing out" of good-paying manufacturing jobs, while trade deficits mount and middle-class financial jobs don''t pay as well as industrial jobs.

GE has shifted over the past three decades from one of the largest manufacturers in the US industry into a services-focused global conglomerate active in energy, construction, financial services and health care.

The stock markets expect GE''s 2007 revenue at $175 billion. The company generates more than half its sales outside the United States.

Immelt''s observations came at the end of a corporate recruiting speech to attract top-flight engineers and managers to join GE. But the comments also had a political edge aimed at government officials in the US and India.

He told the largely Indian audience, many of who are entrepreneurs forming the backbone of Silicon Valley''s thriving high-tech economy, "I am a globalist. You are a globalist. We all believe in the strength of the global economy.

"But the question is whether we will be allowed to globalise over the next 10 to 20 years. We need to earn the right to globalise," he said, adding that political and regulatory decisions were going to determine the continuing of globalisation.

The fourth stage of globalisation
India''s close political and economic ties to the US gave it a major advantage over other fast-growing emerging economies such as China and Russia, whose growth may be coming at the expense of US jobs.

"When I look at India versus China, China has a hard time with win-win." He said referring to the growing US trade imbalance in the face of China''s mounting trade surplus. "That is a problem over the long-term. India can do much better," he predicted.

Globalisation is entering a fourth stage, he said. It started out importing high-end products from the United States to India, and then turned to local joint ventures, followed by moves to build factories in China and India, its current focus. The next stage is designing technologies in India for the rest of the world.

As an example, GE is taking technology it developed in the United States for high-end magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and doing research in India to develop a low-cost, $500,000 MRI scanner that it can sell in emerging markets, including China. He said this could become a $1 billion export opportunity over the next five to 10 years for GE

Since the 1970s, General Electric has acted as one of the earliest and biggest multinational investors in India, employing 13,000 people in the country and Bangalore being GE''s single largest research centre in the world.

"We have $3 billion in revenue in India ... on our way to $8 billion in 2010," Immelt disclosed, adding, "We are going to hit those goals and probably go right past them."

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Globalisation unpopular in the US: GE chief Jeffrey Immelt