At a business gathering in Italy, it wasn't clear who angered GE chief executive Jeff Immelt more: the Chinese government or President Obama.
According to the Financial Times, he railed against the president's economic leadership, saying U.S. businesses did not like Obama and Obama didn't like them. He held up German Chancellor Angela Merkel's policies in favor of German industries in contrast. “We are a pathetic exporter...we have to become an industrial powerhouse again but you don’t do this when government and entrepreneurs are not in synch.”
As for China, he accused Beijing of protectionist policies and warned that GE was exploring other options for investment. “I am not sure that in the end they want any of us to win, or any of us to be successful.”
Immelt's sentiments are undoubtedly shared by others in the business community. But for the head of world's second biggest multinational conglomerate, it was a surprisingly public display of disaffection. Trying to put out the fire, GE has since distanced itself from Immelt's accusations saying they don't reflect the company's views. Additionally, they issued a statement saying Immelt was quoted out of context.
Reflecting on GE's reaction, business writer Douglas McIntyre writes, "Immelt may be angry, but GE is not willing to face the risk that his rants might hurt its interests." GE's revenues in China last year amounted to $5.3 billion.