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Following is the transcript of CNBC's interview with Peter Voser, Chairman of ABB at the 2017 Singapore Summit. This interview broadcasted in Asia on Monday, 18 September.
All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview".
Interviewed by Nancy Hungerford, Anchor/Correspondent, CNBC.
Nancy Hungerford (NH): Speaking of COP 21, when you heard the news that President Trump was going to withdraw from COP 21, what was your reaction?
Peter Voser: In my opinion a shame and one of the, or the biggest economy should actually support the climate change battle. On the other side, the train has left the station. We're all working on it and all other governments are supportive and the big governments as well that was quite a bit of CO2 levels like China like India, so they're all supportive so we will develop this. And I'm quite hopeful that over time the U.S. will get back in. If I talk to my colleagues in the big U.S. companies they're actually all in line with the climate change agenda and they want to operate outside the U.S. as well. So they will be part of the solution. So I'm quite hopeful that over time we will get to the right solutions including the U.S. as part of it and not standing outside.
NH: And you must know U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from your time in the business. Do you think this put him in a difficult position?
Peter Voser: I think you have to ask him that at the end. But I have worked a lot with Rex Tillerson. He is a very good business person. He is a long term thinker like his company he used to work for. So therefore I think it's not a dilemma for him. He will make sure that in the long term the world will get to the right solution. So I think he can deal with that.
NH: And when you talked about the U.S. withdrawing from COP 21, does this leave a gap then for the likes of China to assume the lead position in the climate change and energy debate?
Peter Voser: I think the leadership in climate change cannot just come from one nation. It should come from groups of nations or the businesses or society. So I think yes China will play a pivotal role given its size, the economy, the CO2 levels they have today. But I think it will be wrong if they are the only leaders in this one. India and also ASEAN and we are in Singapore, a group can help to drive this. This is 600 million people. Europe has 500 million people with a huge export business. I think Germany is a leader in Europe in this and I think should be a leader in the world as well. So they all have to play their role. But I really hope that we don't actually have to rely on one big nation to drive this. This should be society, government and businesses who drive actual implementation.
NH: And China is trying to lead in some ways in the electric car push in some ways that we were discussing. How big is that transformation to electric cars, an opportunity for ABB?
Peter Voser: It is a huge opportunity because we are on the power side. So we bring the power through our very unique high voltage direct current technology into the cities. We have our direct current technologies which brings it to the consumer. We are in the charging station business for both cars and for buses. So we are in the middle of this and we see this as a big business opportunity to work with the smart cities of the future to actually provide this to our customers. On the other side we're also working with car manufacturers because quite clearly they need our robots, they need our automation capabilities that they can switch them from one model to the next model in a much faster way. So we can work with them as well and get actually quite a lot of business opportunities on both sides.
NH: You have worked throughout your career in industries that require free cross-border trade it would be rather antagonistic you might think to protectionist measures of any sort. Following the election seasons of 2016 we have the Brexit shock, some of the rhetoric in the U.S. election leading a protectionist way. Do you think there is still a concern here among business leaders that globalization is at risk?
Peter Voser: I think the concerns are there. I wouldn't describe it as globalization is at risk but I think that the development of the globalization may not be as clear as it used to be. I don't think actually the big issue is the globalization or the trade issues with the U.S., it is actually much more within the US infrastructure education systems etc. have not been developed over the last few decades. And that's the people feel that I don't think it's actually a consequence of globalization. It is a consequence of not having done the right thing inside the US. I think that's hopefully being addressed. I think the rest of the world will see different leadership lead us forward to drive globalization. This will not go away. It is more nationalistic thinking in everything.
NH: You touched on the U.S. there - there is great optimism now that some infrastructures stimulus will get through some on tax reform will get through. If it doesn't will that be a disappointment not just for the U.S. markets but globally through the ripple effects?
Peter Voser: I think in terms of investments in infrastructure etc. there will be disappointment if that doesn't come. But I think it is a two-fold disappointment for the people in the U.S. because they need it but it is also a disappointment for companies like ABB because we could deliver a lot of products and goods which would help the U.S. The tax reform, I think it is needed. I'm pro tax reform but I think the weight which is attached to it of what it actually will change on a worldwide basis. I think it's a little bit over played. So if ABB wants to put a manufacturing plant into the U.S. We don't do this for taxes. We do this because the market is there and we asked the right people we have the right R&D so the right people skills we have the right R&D and we want to be locally embedded and then taxes will then also be a part of that thinking. But it's not the prime driver.
NH: Do you do it if you get a phone call for U.S. President Trump saying move here and I will give you some favorable terms?
Peter Voser: We'll take that into account but we're producing more than 60 per cent of our sales in the U.S. - we produce in the U.S.. This was all of our philosophy. So if he calls me I'll tell him I do that already, thank you very much I still take your tax reform but we will just continue.
NH: It seems to be that you are suggesting that the U.S. fell behind when it comes to the infrastructure building, innovation. Is that true?
Peter Voser: Innovation I wouldn't say but infrastructure, yes. If you take the power system in the U.S., this is a very aging power system you have transmission line distribution it's underinvestment over years. Innovation, I mean the U.S. is the country for innovation, but the innovation was put in different fields. Not involved everybody now calls the old industry, it's all in the new industry but the rest of the world has done a lot R&D developments in the old industries and we are one of the old company becoming very modern with obviously the Internet of Things and the digitalization but clearly I think the U.S. is a country of innovation. They should get back to innovating across all the value chains which we have, it was a little bit too strongly on the new technology.
NH: On the flip side, which country is leading who has it right?
Peter Voser: We talk a lot about Europe of being the old continent in that sense. But I think in terms of infrastructure investments in terms of R&D investments in terms of support for through social schemes for our workers etc. it's a quite a unique place. And I think could be actually see herself having it right. I think if you are in Asia I see a few countries where I have to say that actually the way it is now is steadily developed in terms of infrastructure in terms of innovation in terms of consumer goods. I see a lot of good examples.