U.S. President Barack Obama will name General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt to head a new economic advisory panel on Friday focused on promoting growth by investing in business.
The "President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness," will work to encourage companies to hire and invest in U.S. competitiveness, the White House said in a statement.
The council replaces an economic recovery advisory panel led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who is stepping down when his group dissolves next month.
Bringing Immelt on board solidifies Obama's efforts to improve his relationship with the business community, with whom the White House has had strained ties for the last two years.
Obama, a Democrat, recently named JPMorgan Chase executive William Daley to be his chief of staff, drawing praise from the corporate world. The president promised to rejuvenate relations with business in the aftermath of last year's congressional elections, which gave Republicans a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and greater strength in the Senate.
Immelt, a member of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, has been a frequent visitor to the White House and attended a CEOs meeting with Obama and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday.
"Jeff Immelt's experience at GE and his understanding of the vital role the private sector plays in creating jobs and making America competitive makes him up to the challenge of leading this new Council," Obama said in a statement.
Obama will make the formal announcement during a visit to a GE plant in Schenectady, New York, later on Friday.
Immelt also served on the Volcker-chaired panel. He wrote in an opinion piece published on The Washington Post website that businesses shared a responsibility to boost the economy.
"The president and I are committed to a candid and full dialogue among business, labor and government to help ensure that the United States has the most competitive and innovative economy in the world," he wrote.
"There is always a healthy tension between the public and private sectors. However, we all share a responsibility to drive national competitiveness, particularly during economic unrest. This is one of those times."
SHIFTING TO FOCUS ON GROWTH
The panel will work to promote growth by training workers to compete globally and to attract good jobs and businesses to the United States, the White House said.
Immelt said in his opinion piece the group would focus on expanding the U.S. manufacturing base, boosting exports, and increasing innovation.
The GE chief told Reuters Insider earlier this week the United States and the enormous buying power of U.S. consumers would not be enough to drive earnings growth for big U.S. businesses in the decades ahead.
That context will inform the new panel, which is meant to pick up where Volcker's group left off, focusing on growth after the last two years were spent pulling the United States out of the biggest recession since the 1930s.
"We still have a long way to go, and my number one priority is to ensure we are doing everything we can to get the American people back to work," Obama said.
The president thanked Volcker and said he would continue to rely on him for advice.
"From his bold vision around how to reform our financial system to his thoughtful insight on how to make our economy work for working families again, Paul brought his brilliance and vast experience to bear on a host of difficult challenges," Obama said.
"I have valued his friendship and skill over the years, and I will rely on his counsel for years to come," Obama said.
The former central banker was the driving force behind the "Volcker Rule," a provision in last year's financial reform bill that puts limits on proprietary trading by U.S. banks.
Many on Wall Street vigorously fought the Volcker Rule and some sought to portray Volcker as out of touch with the modern financial system. But he has also received credit for reining in financial industry excesses that helped prompt the global economic crisis.
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