In blow to Trump, GE backs NAFTA and plans growth in Mexico

MONTERREY, NUEVO LEON, MEXICO (MAY 12, 2017) (REUTERS) – General Electric Co’s chief executive on Friday (May 12) praised Mexico as a big part of its future growth and said the company is “very supportive” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that U.S President Donald Trump has threatened to ditch.

The conglomerate is keen to double its purchases from Mexican suppliers next year, a statement from the office of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said, a move that could upset Trump, who touts a “Buy American” policy and has railed against U.S. firms that move operations to Mexico.

Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, on a visit to Mexico, did not mention GE’s interest in ramping up purchases in Mexico in a speech in the northern city of Monterrey, but he said Mexico was a big part of the company’s future growth plans.

Earlier this month, Immelt warned the Trump administration to avoid protectionist policies, while calling on it to level the playing field for U.S. companies with tax reform, revived export financing and improved trade agreements.

Immelt’s visit coincides with efforts by Mexico and Canada to push U.S. business leaders to defend NAFTA. Immelt sits on a Trump-appointed manufacturing council that Mexico has identified as a target for lobbying to protect NAFTA.

Trump has threatened to ditch NAFTA, a lynchpin of the Mexican economy, if he cannot rework it to secure better terms for the United States. He has also said there would be consequences for U.S firms that move operations overseas as he strives to revive domestic manufacturing.

But, unlike other U.S. firms, GE has not backed off its plans in Mexico, risking the wrath of Trump, who has singled out companies by name on Twitter.

Immelt met with Pena Nieto in Mexico City before travelling to Monterrey.

On Thursday (May 11), General Electric announced that it won a contract to supply two new gigawatts of power in Mexico and had also signed a separate $120 million, multi-year deal to provide service to gas and steam turbines in Mexican power plants.