Business Roundtable Announces Roadmap for Growth - Transcript | Business Roundtable


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Johanna Schneider: Good morning. I'm Johanna Schneider with the Business Roundtable. We're here today to release the Business Roundtable's Roadmap for Growth. Ivan Seidenberg, who's our Chairman, will make initial opening remarks and then Andrew Liveris, with Dow Chemical, will talk a little bit more about the roadmap. We have so many CEO's here today. I'm going to start over here on my left and ask the CEO's to provide their name and their company to you before we begin.

CEO Introductions:

  • Mike Morris, American Electric Power Company
  • Bill Green, Accenture
  • Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon Communications
  • Mike Duke, Wal-Mart
  • Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil
  • Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase
  • Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical
  • Dean Scarborough, Avery Dennison
  • Ken Chenault, American Express
  • Dave Cote, Honeywell
  • Larry Fink, BlackRock
  • Antonio Perez, Eastman Kodak
  • Enrique Santacana, ABB, Inc.
  • Randall Stephenson, AT&T

Johanna Schneider: Immediately following the remarks we will have a Q&A session. We will need to have a very hard stop at 8:55 because we do have a meeting that begins downstairs at 9:00. Ivan.

Ivan Seidenberg: Good morning everyone. Thank you for joining us this morning. I'm privileged and delighted to be here with my colleagues to present to you the BRT's Roadmap for Growth. Now, just a word of background on this: so for the past several months we have been engaging with the Administration and the Congress and all the other public officials who are focused on ways of creating sustainable growth for our country.

One of things that the BRT wanted to make sure of was that the policies and the conversation focused on those things that would be sustainable and fundamentally change the direction of our country's policy so we can create the kind of wealth and jobs that are important for America.

We commissioned a group; and you can see some of the members behind me are on the executive committee and have worked with us on this. Andrew Liveris, who'll join me in a moment, is chairing this effort. We call it the Roadmap for Growth. And the idea is to create a holistic platform to have a conversation around what are those fundamental things that we think need to be done in total to create the framework for sustainable growth in the country.

Roadmap for Growth will be published today. We view it as the starting point for a conversation around those things that we think need to be addressed. I would like to point out that the things that occurred in the last couple of days are extraordinary. When we look at all the things that have been going on over the past couple of weeks on trade, the deal yesterday, these are all contributing, I believe, to the conversation we need to create this broad set of changes.

Work is never done. Individual items are important but it's the context of the certainty that we're looking to create long term for our capital formation and our investments going forward that become the paramount issue.

So I would like to introduce Andrew and he will take you through the Roadmap for Growth and then we'll take a couple of questions. Thank you. Andrew.

Andrew Liveris: Thanks, Ivan. The document in reference is obviously available to you, Roadmap for Growth. As Ivan's already said our colleagues around us here plus the entire BRT has a series of initiatives that have been pulled together for America for jobs by business driving a business agenda for competitiveness. Each one of these particular initiatives has been driven by leaders around me here lead by Ivan, of course.

All we did was we pulled it together and put it into a holistic framework so it could make sense together. You can't “salami” this. You can't do it by sector. The diverse sectors represented by the BRT, which is a third of the market cap for the New York Stock Exchange, represents thousands and millions of jobs around the world and are in this country in particular, whether it be trade, whether it be in market access, whether it be education, whether it be tax policy and fiscal reform, whether it be anything to do with regulation and energy in the environment.

We have pulled together all these initiatives. We have details behind them. We have fact and data behind them and what we really are asking for here is a dialogue and a conversation with government – all government. Other countries in the world do this. America has done it in the past. It's time America did it again and so what we're all about here is specifics that underpin these five areas. These five areas have to be done together. As Ivan said, great progress in recent days but the conversation has just begun.

So this launch, supported, of course, by the entire executive committee of the BRT, is crucial in our view to get this conversation started immediately.

So with that I'm just going to pull out a few recommendations. I think if you had to go to the easy ones, education is a sweet spot for the government, for Congress and for all of us. If we don't get a well educated workforce back in this country, if we don't invest in science, technology, engineering and math, if we don't pull it all together then our funk – we're currently ranked 52nd out of 139 countries in the World Economic Forum's report on math and science education, and we're spiraling downwards.

With undereducated workers, we will not get qualified people for qualified jobs in this economy as we create high tech sectors – such as the one around us – in any sector. So what we've got to do is have a sustained investment, government and public companies together, private partnerships in education. That's a sweet spot. Bill Green from Accenture has been leading that initiative. We believe we're pretty much talking the same language as all of government on this particular conversation.

Then you go all the way over to regulatory reform. As of now the EPA has 290 regulations coming down the pike adding new costs to American business. Many of them are not science-based. Many of these are not fact-based. Many of them don't even have business in the conversation.

So I just gave you two extremities, one where we're aligned and one where we're not aligned. We believe we have to begin the conversation on each one of these initiatives and that the time is now. Thank you very much and I will let the Q&A session begin. Johanna.

Johanna Schneider: Just a couple things we do have mics so everybody in the room can hear you. If we can get the cordless mic and if you can just mention who you are and what outlet you're representing and we're going to keep the questions to the Roadmap for Growth. Yes, sir.

Ted Knutson: Yes, Ivan, my name is Ted Knutson. I'm the Washington correspondent for a unit of Thomson Reuters called Complinet. It's a daily securities and banking regulatory news service. Two questions: I see in the financial regulation section there is no mention of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I'm curious why. I wouldn't imagine that you're in love with it.

Ivan Seidenberg: You mean there's no mention in the Roadmap?

Ted Knutson: Exactly, in the financial regulations.

Ivan Seidenberg: Well, no. The way I already addressed that is we have one of the major initiatives is what we would call of the regulatory – the proliferation of new rules. I think Andrew just mentioned the one that has to do with the EPA but there are plenty of others, too. To me it's included in that conversation.

Ted Knutson: OK, the second question is Senator Dodd says he can foresee a scenario where the Republicans were to refuse to allow the nomination of any head of the CFPB to go through unless there was a change in the funding mechanism. Do you see that scenario happening?

Ivan Seidenberg: So, I'm going to address that a little differently and I think my colleagues, I hope, all these serious-looking guys will smile and shake their head when I say this. I think that we do not want to engage in the middle of all these political maneuvers. We want to have a conversation in which all of the public officials in Washington engage in a serious discussion around these five issues and we govern the country in a way that moves forward.

So those kinds of things kind of go beyond my job grade at this point and what we're going to do is hold people's feet to the fire about talking about the facts and the policies and the certainty that we need to drive the country to create jobs and grow the economy.

We OK on that, guys? There you go, there you go. This is right out of Saturday Night Live, you know, this is going to be [INDISCERNIBLE].

OK, I'm sorry. There was a gentleman here who had his hand up. OK, all right, and then you go – oh, you have the mic so this gentleman gets it.

Eamon Javers: The power of the mic. I'm Eamon Javers with CNBC. As I understand it you guys are calling for a re-evaluation of healthcare reform and also of Wall Street reform that both passed last year. Do you think that's at all realistic given that you've got a president in the White House right now who's probably not likely to sign any re-evaluation of two of the cornerstones of his administration so far?

Ivan Seidenberg: OK, let me take a cut at that and if I get it, Antonio will help. The way I would look at that is we now have more information and facts around what was intended when the bill passed. And what we now see is that the implementation is producing significantly higher costs to implement. And so I think there is a – let's call it a retool or a restart or some modifications that will be required. You know, the form of that, you know, should be left to the experts to work their way through that whether you need new legislation or whether you need regulatory agencies to go through this. But I don't think it would be fair to say that the bill that was passed all by itself will work the way it was intended to. So I think what we want to do is work with the Administration, and Secretary Sebelius will be at our meeting today to carry this conversation forward.

So this is not an issue of we're making a call about what the legislation needs to do or not do. What we want to do is stop, take a time out and try to fix those things that we already know won't work the way they were intended to work.

Well, I think you need to the President a chance to go through the facts and just like in the last, you know, couple of days or last month or so I think the President's shown a willingness to learn. He's curious. He's always been curious. And we can present the facts to him then we'll make a case. But the idea here is let's get this conversation started again on a much more fact-based, meaningful way.

Mark Drajem: I'm Mark Drajem from Bloomberg News. The Business Roundtable and you were very critical of the President earlier this year for the policies that he was pursuing. Do you – is this kind of an olive branch to the Administration that there is somewhere to go here. And you mentioned the tax deal and the Korea breakthrough last week. Do you see a shift in the Administration and what do you attribute that to?

Ivan Seidenberg: So, you know, one of the good things about – you learn as being a CEO is you have a very short memory, you know. So I think this is all about tomorrow, and I think this Roadmap for Growth is a way for us to help – not just the President but everybody in the Congress – focus on those things we need to do going forward. To the credit of the President he has done that as well. He has – Jim McNerney will tell you he has been a strong advocate on free trade. He's done a good job on the education issues. So if you look at the five pillars, there's a couple of things he's sort of moved along. I think what we need to do is help create, as I said earlier and Andrew said, a fact-based approach to this dialogue and then let's move the debate forward.

So what we've said before had its impact. Where we are today is we're in a moment that we want to work not just with the President but the new Congress to make sure that we get the country on the right track.

We could end on that note if you don't mind. OK, thank you for coming. Just remember this is a positive event here. We are trying to encourage the country to focus on those things that we need to create jobs. Thank you very much.

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