General Electric has announced plans to reassign 500 manufacturing jobs currently based in the U.S. to Europe and Asia, a move that will further increase the percentage of its workforce employed abroad. As of the end of 2014, 55% of GE's 305,000 employees already worked outside the U.S.
The conglomerate is moving positions currently in Maine, New York, Texas and South Carolina to France, China and Hungary. Bloomberg reported the news Tuesday after receiving confirmation from GE Vice Chairman John Rice, who said the decision was forced by Congress's failure to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which provided GE with credit assistance. The Export-Import Bank is the official credit reporting agency of the United States, with a mission to support U.S. job growth by providing loans, credit guarantees and insurance to American companies.
"Frankly, we’ve been pushed to do this," GE's Rice said, alluding to a block by Republican members of Congress on a vote to reauthorize the 81-year-old Export-Import Bank when its charter expired on June 30th.
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Prior to the charter expiration, the Export-Import Bank offered almost $1 billion in annual credit assistance to G.E. customers abroad. G.E. says that products such as gas turbines and jet engines have taken an especially hard hit on their international sales amid the loss of financing. With lawmakers yet to bring back the agency, Rice said, “We’ve got to start making some choices about where those products will be manufactured in order to qualify for export credit financing."
While conservative Republicans blocked the Export-Import Bank's reauthorization at the beginning of July by arguing that it primarily benefits large corporations like G.E., who don't need government assistance, Rice told Bloomberg that over 50 other nations have agencies providing credit assistance on exports. “This is not just about big companies like GE and Boeing,” Rice said, “It’s about the little companies that don’t have options. We can move production to France, but they can’t necessarily.”
About 400 of the jobs are expected to be relocated to France under a new agreement with the country's export credit agency.