GENERAL ELECTRIC GLOBAL GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
Public policy affects our Company, our workers and our communities. As one of the world’s largest companies, active in more than 100 countries and across many sectors of the global economy, GE believes that we have important perspectives to offer policy makers and thinkers. Through our government relations, public affairs, citizenship and philanthropic activities, and day-to-day business engagements, GE seeks to inform public policy discussions around the world. On subjects ranging from energy and healthcare to tax and trade, GE is working to enhance dialogue on the critical public policy challenges of today. We believe the alignment of our product portfolio, which focuses on providing solutions to many of the world’s biggest challenges, further underpins and informs our public policy engagement.
The hallmark of GE’s approach to public policy is thought leadership. We seek to inform discussions by promoting thoughtful civil discourse, grounded in strong, reasoned analysis. We work in partnership with governments, believing that tackling the world’s biggest problems will only be possible if governments and industry work together as partners. To that end, we are committed to engaging with governments — globally, nationally and locally — through constructive dialogue, the promotion of innovative public policy ideas, the formation of novel public-private partnerships and investments in solutions that can help address the fundamental challenges that confront societies.
Our current public policy priorities include:
- Sustaining global economic growth
- Promoting technology and innovation
- Enhancing the rule of law
- Addressing the world’s energy and environmental challenges
Strengthening the Global Economy
As the global economy in 2010 slowly returned to growth, GE worked to promote public policies that will help ensure stronger growth in the short term and sustained growth in the long term. In particular, GE has been actively engaged in discussions in the world’s leading capitals on pressing issues of economic reform in such areas as energy, healthcare, financial services, international trade and investment, tax and government procurement. GE has sought to inform policy makers of the practical implications of proposed initiatives, as well as the costs of inaction. While we are pleased that these dialogues took place, we remain concerned by the need to further address some of the fundamental challenges confronting the United States and international economies.
One area in which we continue to be particularly focused is sustaining economic growth through international trade and exports. GE has long been an advocate for open markets at home and abroad, and we will remain so going forward. We applaud President Obama’s National Export Initiative, and believe that adopting policies that enhance international trade and investment will strengthen the global economy, raise standards of living, spur innovation and alleviate poverty.
GE’s public policy agenda seeks to foster the conditions in which international trade and investment can flourish. Specific elements include:
- Support for a strong international trading system. A strong and credible multilateral trade system, overseen by the World Trade Organization, is vital to the global economy. Developed and developing countries, governments and industry, shareholders and employees — we all share a responsibility to make meaningful contributions to protect and strengthen the international trading system.
- Support for policies that will stimulate international trade and investment, including strengthened export finance and export credit facilities, more effective trade controls and the adoption of immigration and visa policies designed to strengthen competitiveness and allow businesses and individuals to fulfill their potential.
- Support for the negotiation of additional bilateral and multilateral market-opening trade and investment agreements and entry into force of agreements that have already been negotiated.
- Opposition to the erection of protectionist barriers to trade and investment flows. For example, in 2010, GE joined with several U.S. and multinational companies and associations to challenge the adoption of government procurement preferences or forced localization regimes in various jurisdictions.
- Support for enforcement of international trade rules. From international labor and environmental standards to intellectual property rights to market transparency, all participants in the global economy must live by the international rules of the road. Technical standards should not be used to bar market access, governments should refrain from trade-distorting subsidies and WTO decisions must be respected. For example, GE has been a strong advocate for the United States’ resolving outstanding trade disputes with Mexico (trucking) and Brazil (cotton).
Ultimately, GE believes that governments should strengthen the health and education of their citizens, build necessary trade-related infrastructure, adopt prudent fiscal and monetary policies and enhance the capacity of their citizens to compete in an increasingly integrated global economy.
Countries of concern
GE has decided not to do business in certain countries because of the reputational and business risks involved. GE evaluates such countries on an ongoing basis consistent with applicable law.
Consistent with applicable law, GE does not do business in any country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the U.S. Department of State. These countries include Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. The Company will not accept any business in these countries, except that which is licensed by the U.S. government for humanitarian or public policy purposes. This same policy applies to North Korea as well.
In addition, GE has not engaged in business in Myanmar (Burma) since 1996, except for limited humanitarian and public policy purposes.
Addressing World’s Energy and Environmental Challenges
Cleaner, greener prosperity makes sense both environmentally and economically. In an effort to increase energy security, mitigate the risk of climate change, and to create jobs, countries around the world are calling for greater efficiency and environmental performance in power generation, transmission and distribution products and services.
At GE, we’re continually investing in advanced nuclear power, cleaner coal, wind, solar, natural gas turbines, water and smart grid technologies. Our ecomagination business initiative reflects this commitment to apply innovation to the world’s critical energy and environment challenges. Through ecomagination, we’re committed to investing $10 billion in research and development by 2015 – to market products that use fewer resources.
Just as private sector innovation and investment can address the world’s energy and environmental challenges, so too can appropriate public policies. Therefore, GE is committed to engaging with governments around the world to generate ideas to solve these problems. Specific elements of GE’s energy policy agenda include:
- Support for energy standards with strong near-term targets, which are the most viable solution to stimulate innovation and deployment of clean energy technologies.
- Support for robust intellectual property rights, which are critical to creating and preserving incentives for innovation. Key elements include the adoption of legal regimes and capacity-building to assist countries in developing such regimes.
- Support for freer trade in clean energy technologies, including the elimination of barriers to trade in energy and environmental goods and services, and tax and other fiscal incentives for adoption of clean energy solutions.
- Support for policies to incentivize industrial water reuse and regulations to better protect scarce water resources.
- Support for international agreements that assure secure and proliferation-resistant expansion of nuclear power.
- Support for policies to spur advancement in grid technologies. These may include efficiency standards, performance targets, variable rate structures and discounted off-peak rates.
- Support for policies to encourage the deployment of electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure.
The Rule of Law
GE’s day-to-day experiences around the world testify to the critical importance of rule of law. Those societies that have strong, predictable and transparent legal institutions and processes engender confidence, investment and growth. By contrast, those with weak institutions and processes tend to lag in economic development and political stability. GE works actively to support stronger rule of law around the world. Key areas of focus include anticorruption, legal and administrative transparency and predictability, independent judiciaries, and fair and effective dispute resolution. GE’s rule-of-law efforts begin with our day-to-day business activities around the world, which are predicated on a strong culture of compliance. GE’s employees further contribute to strengthening rule of law, as does the GE Foundation.
Recent GE activities in the area of rule of law include:
- GE’s global public policy and national executive teams and the GE Foundation have been actively engaged in supporting rule-of-law efforts in developing countries around the world, ranging from Albania to Yemen, in partnership with Partners for Democratic Change. Partners’ innovative approach to rule of law is based on the establishment of self-sustaining “conflict resolution centers,” which seek to manage and mediate the conflicts and changes that arise as their countries transition to more democratic systems.
- GE and GE Foundation are working to strengthen rule of law in China, through the U.S.-China Legal Cooperation Fund. This highly regarded program has worked to support efforts in a wide variety of areas ranging from enhanced protection for intellectual property rights to employment rights of migrant workers. The GE China legal team has also been actively engaged in legal education efforts in Chinese law schools and with Chinese civil society.
- GE and GE Foundation have been leading sponsors of the ABA Rule of Law Project, a global effort to strengthen rule of law, including through the creation of a “Rule of Law Index” — a quantitative methodology for evaluating a country’s rule of law based on its respect for human rights, access to justice, regulatory framework for investors, transparency and curbing of abuses of government power.
- GE and GE Foundation have worked to strengthen rule of law in Vietnam. Through a grant issued to the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council Education Forum, GE has helped support efforts by Vietnamese state government agencies, NGOs, business associations, academic institutions and others to increase regulatory transparency and public participation in the law and rule-making process. Under this GE Foundation–supported program, the past year witnessed a focus on Vietnam’s new energy legislation.
- GE and GE Foundation have promoted good governance and legal excellence in Argentina through grants to public/private dialogues and judicial training programs, working with the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America, the Fundacion Red de Acción Política, the Centro de Estudios Americanos and the International Judicial Academy.
In addition to these activities, GE also regularly raises rule-of-law issues in regional dialogues, such as the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue, the Americas Competitiveness Forum and APEC, to encourage regulatory reform and harmonization and the establishment of regional programs to promote rule of law.
Technology and Innovation
Much like its founder, Thomas Edison, GE has always been motivated by the belief that technology and innovation can make dramatic contributions to solving the world’s most challenging problems. This commitment remains central to GE’s public policy engagement. GE’s history of innovation — from the lightbulb to jet engines — has demonstrated the power of innovation to fulfill the core public policy objective of improving standards of living. Today, our ecomagination and healthymagination business initiatives reflect our commitment to applying innovation to address the critical challenges our world faces in the areas of energy, the environment and healthcare.
GE believes the relationship between public policy and technological innovation is symbiotic. Just as innovation can address public policy challenges, so too can appropriate public policies help spur technology and innovation. To that end, we seek to encourage consideration of technology- and innovation-friendly public policies.
Specific areas of focus include:
- Support for robust intellectual property rights (IPR) protections that are critical to creating and preserving the incentives for innovation. Key elements include the adoption of legal regimes, as well as capacity-building to assist countries in developing the structures and know-how necessary to implement such regimes.
- Support for policies that promote the development of clean and efficient energy. Key elements include support for policies that appropriately price carbon emissions, the elimination of barriers to trade in energy and environmental goods and services, and tax and other fiscal incentives for the adoption of clean energy solutions.
- Support for policies that effectively address the three key challenges facing healthcare globally: enhancing access, reducing cost and improving quality.
- Support for policies that would create incentives for industry to reuse more water and regulations that would better protect scarce water resources.
- Advocacy for effective reform of trade control systems to make such controls more efficient, transparent and predictable.
- Support for education, health, social safety net, immigration and tax policies that strengthen a country’s capability to promote technological innovation.
Identification, Evaluation and Prioritization of Global Public Policy Issues
Because GE is one of the world’s largest companies, active in many sectors of the global economy with about 300,000 employees and 5 million shareowners around the world, public policy decisions will inevitably affect our business. Accordingly, the board of directors believes that it is in the best interests of shareowners for GE to promote sound public policies at the international level. To this end, GE global government affairs and policy asks each of the company’s business teams to provide a semi-annual assessment of their legislative and regulatory priorities on a regional and global basis. Each business provides a description of public policy priorities, ties these to a GE objective and provides input on the significance of the issue(s) to the company. The businesses also provide input on the appropriate advocacy plan or strategy to achieve a successful outcome- including whether or not GE will advocate directly for a priority or through one of its trade associations or industry coalitions. We work through these associations to facilitate coordination with other companies with similar priorities and where their reputation, effectiveness, expertise and relationships can assist us in achieving the company’s goals. Once each business has rolled up its priorities, the government relations team uses this list to determine GE’s overall public policy priorities for the upcoming year. These priorities are then reviewed regularly to take into account new and changing circumstances.
In evaluating the public policy priorities for the upcoming year, government affairs and policy works with GE senior management to review a number of factors, including potential reputational impact and risks of pursuing or not pursuing a particular priority. We set commercial priorities to increase shareowner value, mindful that our commercial success depends upon forward progress on broader public policy imperatives. This process takes into consideration GE’s strategic objectives and there is no pre-assigned formula for determining GE’s public policy priorities or advocacy strategy. Though deal approvals or other one time matters can sometimes rise on the priority list, tax, trade, rule of law, and intellectual property protections typically top our list of priorities.