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US Becoming 'Laughingstock' as Debt Talks Drag: Dow CEO

Wednesday, 27 Jul 2011 | 10:44 AM ET
Andrew Liveris
Andrew Liveris

America is "becoming a bit of a laughingstock" to Europe because of its inability to resolve its debt problem, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris told CNBC Wednesday.

Liveris paraphrased Winston Churchill in describing Europe's view — America finally does the right thing when it runs out of all other possibilities — at a time when the continent has its own debt problems.

He stressed, "We’re a greater country than this," but noted the rancor in Washington "is a massive distraction we didn’t need. Let’s get pragmatic and put it behind us and let’s get to the business of creating jobs" as well as tax reform, getting rid of duplicative regulations and improving the economy.

These important business issues have fallen by the wayside as the partisan divide widens before the Aug. 2 deadline, he said.

Dow Chemical posted a better than expected quarterly profit Wednesday as higher prices and volumes offset a 30 percent jump in raw material costs.

A lot of that profit came from emerging markets, he said.

"Our travel is an indicator. We spend two weeks to 2.5 weeks a month overseas" meeting with customers and governments, Liveris said. "There are governments out there who work with business to work on growth. We have growth economies around the world," including Germany.

He added it’s "not just emerging world or developed world differences. It’s really countries that have figured out that to grow you need to partner with business and come up with practical solutions. So we really have a tale of two worlds and we need the United states and western Europe to kick in give us sustained growth again."

Dow Chemical Q2 Results
Emerging markets are a big part of Dow's growth. Discussing the chemical company's second quarter earnings, rising commodity prices, and stalled debt talks in Washington, with Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical chairman/CEO, and Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman/CEO.

Dow investment in emerging markets is growing and a lot of the company's talent is starting to come from China.

"My access to R&D talent in China is extraordinary," he said, although he stressed Dow Chemical still spends most of its R&D funding on "great scientists in the U.S." attached to American universities.

"We’re putting our money where our mouth is. The United States of America has to become a growth economy," he said.

However, he warned, "when you build overseas your R&D will follow. [The U.S. is] losing our competitiveness on talent generation and IT generation. I don’t think it’s this moment but I do think it will occur in the next generation or two."

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