When asked what it’s like to “navigate the age of Donald Trump” on Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman and CEO of GE, was at first reluctant to offer a critique. “Thanks for that question,” he said with a sarcastic chuckle. His role is “first and foremost to run a good company,” he said. “We’re businesspeople. We should participate politically when it’s meaningful or when we should, but most of the time, we should just run our companies and run them successfully.”
Then, after a few moments of reflection, he voiced a critique of the Trump Administration in one area: its approach to engagement with the rest of the world. At GE, he said, “we’re true to who we are, we stand up for things, so I’d be the first to say that this country needs a bilateral relationship with China. The notion that the two largest economies in the world don’t have a meaningful bilateral relationship, I don’t know how many people in this room think that’s a good idea. I don’t get it.”
Asked about Mexico, he said that the business community has to come up with a better case for NAFTA than the argument that getting rid of it will raise costs to consumers.
He was then asked about the Paris Climate Accords––President Trump recently withdrew the United States from participation in the international agreement to combat climate change.