One week before the November election, Gregory Hayes, chairman and chief executive officer of United Technologies Corp., addressed a breakfast audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. Decrying what he called “political rhetoric” being spouted by a certain presidential candidate, Hayes made an impassioned case for global trade.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and in some cases a detachment from reality,” he said in his radio-ready baritone. Blaming trade for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs is “absolutely wrong,” Hayes said, adding, “an isolationist approach will not—I repeat, not—create growth or jobs, nor will it make any country great.”
Hayes went on to defend UTC’s February 2016 decision to close its Carrier Corp. furnace factory in Indianapolis and ship production to Mexico—a move that had drawn the very public ire of presidential candidate Donald Trump. “This is not a decision that we took lightly,” Hayes said. He chuckled at a suggestion that Carrier had become a punching bag for Trump. “The benefits of free trade are obvious to almost everyone,” he said. “Once we get past the silly political season, hopefully we can get some adult supervision and readdress it.”
A month later, Hayes was sharing a dais with none other than President-elect Trump at that Indianapolis factory. Workers cheered as the two announced that Hayes had agreed to keep the plant open. “You are fantastic, Greg,” Trump said. So was the irony.