General Electric Co chief executive Jeffrey Immelt said on Wednesday he wants the United States and China to open their borders for truly free trade between the world's top two economies, rather than hiding behind protectionist walls.

But the chief executive of the largest U.S. conglomerate acknowledged in an interview with Reuters Insider that he treads carefully in going into business with Chinese companies.

We're not naive or stupid about these things. We really do think a lot about it, the head of the world's largest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said after attending a White House meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

There is a multitude of ways to succeed in China, said Immelt, who this year marks his 10th anniversary at GE's helm.

GE this week signed deals worth some $2 billion to supply electric turbines, railroad locomotives and aircraft components to Chinese companies.

It also agreed to work with Chinese companies on gas and coal-powered turbines in China, on high-speed rail in the United States and formed a joint-venture company with China's AVIC to develop electronics for a new single-aisle commercial jetliner being developed by a Chinese state-owned company.

We want to make sure we see the evolution of free trade and transparency, Immelt said. From China, how can they invest more in the United States? How can they grow their companies here? There's a little bit of angst on both sides, but on balance there is comfort that over time a lot of these things will get solved.

Immelt's support of free trade extends to allowing the U.S. government to buy foreign-made goods,

We don't like 'Buy American' provisions, Immelt said. We believe in totality of free trade. We think if GE is good enough to compete in China, we should win. He said there should be mutual respect for investment.