Mr Immelt said that deals were “country by country” and referring to the global digital industry company’s longest ever acquisition, said he had to “fight his way out of Brussels”.
General Electric, which employs hundreds of thousands of staff around the world, has invested heavily in the continent and bought French energy group Alstom’s power and grid business in 2015.
Asked if he was still confident about the future of Europe, the American questioned the EU’s authority and the notion of globalisation.
Jeff Immelt questions the EU's role in business
We’ve never looked at Europe as Europe
Mr Immelt said: “We’ve never looked at Europe as Europe. We know the difference between France and Germany.
“When we were doing Alstom in 2014 we were stopped in Paris by a set of decisions that basically violated Brussels’ rules and we’re kind of sitting there as an American company sucking our thumb in Paris and we had to fight out way out of Paris, then we had to fight our way out of Brussels.
“It didn’t feel like the European Union at that time. People that see globalisation from 30,000ft at a resort or in a townhouse or a think-tank don’t know a damn thing about the way globalisation really works.
World Economic Forum meeting in Davos
Thu, January 22, 2015
World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos Jan. 21-24. World leaders including France's Francois Hollande, Germany's Angela Merkel and China's Li Keqiang will gather at the annual Davos forum, seeking to chart a path away from fundamentalism towards solidarity. The world's political and business elite gather in the glitzy Swiss ski resort with the shadow of recent attacks in France and ongoing global conflicts looming large.
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A screen is pictured at the Congress Center on the eve of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on January 20, 2015
“Today it’s country by country, deal by deal. Now I wish it was all like free trade and all that other stuff, that’s just not where we are.”
The French Government gave the go ahead for the deal as it secured an option to buy a 20 per cent stake in Alstom to safeguard domestic interests.
After deal structure changes, GE completed the purchase of Alstom’s power and gird businesses in 2015 following regulatory approval in more than 20 countries and regions including China, India and Brazil.