Jeff Immelt Weighs in on Global Turmoil at WSJ Event, Hosted by IESE and BCG

06/02/2009 Worldwide

Because governments are united in "firing as many bullets" as possible into the current global recession, an end will eventually come - although it's not clear when, says Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric.

Immelt shared his views on today's economy during an interview this week with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal in the WSJ Viewpoints Breakfast Series in New York City, which is hosted by IESE and BCG.

While companies have to be mindful of creating new jobs in the United States, he warned against a "buy American" clause within any stimulus plan. "If everybody around the world does the same thing we're talking about, doing it hurts trade."

This, in turn, would hurt GE, which is a leading exporter, he said.

"The best jobs we have in this country are export jobs," he said. "If we close the door on that, we close the door on the ability to grow this country in the long term."

Immelt called the current crisis a "fundamental reset."

"Financial services are not going to be the same in our lifetime," he said. "It's going to be regulated differently, there are going to be different competitors, risk is going to be priced differently... The financial industry is going to be dramatically restructured."

Immelt said he has spoken with leaders around the world and they are invariably committed to deficit financing, infrastructure spending, stimulus spending and the protection of the banking sector.

"So I think that the governments are all in," he said. "And my own view is that the government always wins." The question is how long an economic turnaround will take.

"It's pretty tough out there," said Immelt, adding that outside of the United States, he senses less gloom. He recently travelled to India, Turkey, the Middle East and South America, places where economic activity is continuing. "I think the trick is, there is some business going on - you have to go find it."

As the crisis unfolds, companies have to be cognizant that people are "angry" about what has happened, he said. As CEO, his job is to be accountable, he said.

"I think what my employees want to hear from me is: here is what we've learned as a company, here is how we're going to get better, here is what we're accountable for."