Immelt, McNerney Among CEOs to Meet Obama in India

President Barack Obama will meet in India next month with a group of U.S. chief executive officers including Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric Co. and Jim McNerney of Boeing Co., as the administration seeks to boost exports.

Obama will address a conference sponsored by the U.S.-India Business Council Nov. 6 in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, while in India at the start of a four-nation trip to Asia.

Other executives expected to meet with Obama in India are Honeywell International Inc. CEO David Cote, PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi and McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. CEO Terry McGraw III, said Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman. United Technologies Corp. CEO Louis Chenevert also plans to attend, the company said.

The president will use the meetings with the executives as an opportunity to “discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in India,” Psaki said.

Obama has vowed to double U.S. exports in five years. India, Asia’s third-biggest economy, offers a rapidly growing market for U.S. companies selling such products as retail goods and power-plant technology. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke also will be in the meeting.

“It’s a wonderful tactic, because it’s an action-forcing event,” said William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council in Washington. “When a Cabinet official, or even better a president shows up, everybody knows that’s the time to get the deal done.”

The president’s trip includes a visit to Indonesia, where he lived as a child, a meeting of Group of 20 leaders in South Korea and an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Japan.

Chamber Dispute

The U.S.-India Business Council is based at the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been at odds with the Obama administration in the weeks before the U.S. midterm congressional elections. White House aides have suggested that the Chamber is using money from overseas sources to help fund an advertising campaign directed mostly against Democrats. The Chamber has criticized Obama for regulatory and legislative actions that it says are anti-business.

The Chamber plans to spend $75 million on this year’s election. President Thomas Donohue has denied using any foreign funds to underwrite the political activity.

Trade between the U.S. and India more than doubled to $37 billion in 2009 compared with 2003, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. In the first eight months of 2010, total trade topped $32 billion, Commerce figures show.

Aircraft Orders

India is in negotiations to buy as many as 10 Boeing military transport aircraft. The sale of 10 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft may be valued at as much as $5.8 billion, according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Chicago-based Boeing, the second-largest U.S. defense contractor, expects to bid for $31 billion worth of military contracts in India in the next 10 years as it competes with Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and other suppliers for orders following a tripling of the nation’s defense budget. India is assessing bids from European and U.S. companies, including Boeing and Lockheed, for 126 fighter jets.

India also is seeking to expand power production to keep up with its economic growth. The U.S. and India in 2005 signed an agreement that allowed U.S. nuclear suppliers to resume trade with India after being barred when India tested an atomic bomb in 1974.

The government aims to expand its nuclear capacity to 60,000 megawatts by 2030 from 4,560 megawatts at the end of July. India’s total power generation capacity was 163,670 megawatts as of July 31, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

Power Equipment

GE Hitachi, a venture between GE and Hitachi Ltd., and Westinghouse Electric Co. are among the companies competing for contracts to build nuclear power plants in India.

GE, whose equipment generates about one-third of the world’s electricity, won India’s biggest single order for gas and steam turbines. The deal, which the company valued at more than $750 million, will be used in the expansion of a Reliance Power Ltd. plant.

A forum of U.S. and Indian CEOs has proposed initiatives in infrastructure, clean energy, education and health, said Chanda Kochhar, chief executive officer of ICICI Bank Ltd., India’s second largest lender.

Retail Opening

“Funding of infrastructure needs will be the one single policy decision that will make the most difference,” Deepak Parekh, chairman of Housing Development Finance Corp., said in a phone interview. India needs to spend about $1 trillion on highways, ports, airports and utilities from April 2012 to March 2017, twice the amount the nation’s Planning Commission recommended in the previous five years.

United Technologies, the maker of Otis elevators, Carrier air-conditioners, Sikorsky helicopters and Pratt & Whitney jet engines also is seeking to add sales in India.

India’s growing middle class, expanding economy and increasingly brand-conscious population also will help push retail sales up by 35 percent over the next three years, consulting group AT Kearney said in a June report.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Michael Duke is in New Delhi, where he said yesterday he was “hopeful and optimistic” that India will allow foreign investment in retail operations.

Some of the CEOs Obama will meet with in India serve as advisers to the White House. Immelt sits on the president’s outside economic board, and McNerney heads the export council that the president formed in March.

Obama appointed Cote to his commission on cutting the federal deficit, and White House officials have said he is one of the executives Obama most admires. Cote yesterday praised the actions taken by Obama on the economy.

“It’s bad now, but it would have been significantly worse if we hadn’t done anything,” Cote said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The president gets very little credit for avoiding a depression.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at Hnichols2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva@bloomberg.net

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