ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
UPDATE - 4:38pm, Jan. 21:
After today's program aired, a GE spokesman, Gary Sheffer, e-mailed a response: "GE has added 6,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two years in the U.S., we believe in free trade and we are a large exporter to China," Sheffer said.
ORIGINAL POST - 2:06pm, Jan. 21:
President Obama’s naming of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to a new post focused on creating US jobs has drawn cheers from the corporate community, and appears to reflects a change in tone from the White House with regard to big business.
But the head of a leading manufacturing association told us on ABC’s “Top Line” that the president’s choice sends the wrong message to many of those who are currently out of work – who happen o be some of the same voters the president needs to win back.
“He could have done worse, but he certainly could have done a lot better,” Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told us.
“I mean, Immelt has outsourced a ton of jobs. They've closed -- GE has closed 29 factories in the last two years alone. And if you're trying to send a signal to those white, working-class voters that left the Democratic Party in droves in November, naming one of the country’s leading outsourcers as your chief strategy guy on jobs -- I don't think was the smartest move.”
Among other critiques Paul had was that Immelt has not taken a hard enough line with regard to China, a particular focus of the administration this week with President Hu Jintao in Washington.
“There's a lot of baggage there, and it’s not only in what GE has done,” Paul added. “And I mean there has been some … widely heralded moves by General Electric to open some clean-energy manufacturing facilities in the United States, but they're still outsourcing more than they're insourcing. GE has cut tens of thousands of jobs in this country over the last decade.”
“Meanwhile, they've created a lot of jobs abroad but beyond that, and I think what concerns me the most, is where Immelt is on some of this policy. I mean he says very good things about the need to invest in our infrastructure, our educational system, our innovation. But he's pretty weak-kneed when it comes to trade. And he, you know, he favors free-trade deals, which are highly controversial. But the one thing that he's not really willing to do is step up and get a little tough with China.”
Paul said the Obama White House hasn’t made nearly enough progress in the relationship with China.
“Eighty percent of our trade deficit is with China,” he said. “It’s where we've lost most of our manufacturing jobs. It's probably the country with which we have the biggest barriers to entering the market. And the longer we leave these problems fester, the harder it is going to be to create some of these good, blue-collar, green-collar jobs in our economy. And those are the types of jobs we need to see in the industrial heartland if we are going to bring down the unemployment rate and get some economic growth going again.”
Watch the full segment with Scott Paul HERE :
Also on today’s “Top Line,” we checked in with The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny on the emerging Obama reelection campaign, plus the changing relationship between the White House and the business community.
Watch that portion of the program HERE :