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Karan Bhatia lands top job in GE

April 07, 2008 15:10 IST

Former senior Bush administration official Karan Bhatia has landed a top job with General Electric. He has been named vice president and senior counsel in the conglomerate's international law and policy division.

For nearly seven years, Bhatia served in the first and second George W Bush Administrations, first in the department of commerce and then in the department of transportation, before finally enjoying a more than two-year stint as deputy US trade representative. The latter is the senior-most administration position ever served by an Indian American.

Bhatia had resigned in October to return to the private sector.

"Karan's distinguished background in both the public and private sectors will provide GE with world-class leadership in international government relations and policy", said GE's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brackett Denniston.

"Karan is a superb leader with extensive global experience, and we are delighted he is joining GE," he added.

Bhatia told he had taken quite a long hiatus after resigning from the administration to spend some much overdue time with his family, saying, "Quite frankly, it had been an exhaustive seven years in the Bush Administration."

Bhatia said he had "lots of possibilities with law firms and consulting firms and so forth, but when GE offered me this position, it caught my imagination. Since it's a wonderful company and (chairman and CEO) Jeffrey Immelt was very persuasive when I met him. He convinced me that this would be a great opportunity to help push forward a very active trade liberalizing agenda."

Bhatia  said his responsibilities in his new avatar would be "to really to help shape GE's engagement in all the international public policy process around the world. It's not domestic lobbying here

in Washington. My job is to help create an international platform where GE will help in shaping a world trade agenda and public policy from global climate change to transportation, environment and so on."

He said that India and Asia would certainly be a priority in his portfolio and pushing forth the US-India trade agenda from his private vantage point would be among his responsibilities, more so considering GE's longtime involvement and investment in India and Immelt's own interest in India.

As deputy USTR, Bhatia served as the principal US trade liaison for Asia and Africa, and previously as assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs in the US department of transportation, was the catalyst behind the Open Skies Agreement between India and the United States.

Prior to that as deputy under secretary for industry and security at the US department of commerce and chief counsel for export administration in the commerce department, he was the driving force behind pushing for more transfer of high technology to countries like India, which set in motion the US-India civilian nuclear agreement.

Before he joined the administration, Bhatia, was a partner in the leading Washington, DC law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Bhatia, 39, is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and has a masters degree from the London School of Economics in Political Science.

He received his law degree from Columbia University's Law School, where he served on the Law Review.

Bhatia succeeds a longtime India-hand at GE, Michael Gadbaw. The latter is retiring from GE after 17 years. He, even before the US-India Business Council, became the force that had founded the India Interest Group among Fortune 500 companies doing business in India. He had then brought all of those members to join the USIBC.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC