New UPS CEO backs foreign trade agreements, says company will focus on international growth

Operations of the package-delivery giant UPS won't change dramatically under its incoming CEO, the recently named executive said Monday.

But David Abney, who assumes top job of chief executive officer Sept. 1, said the company has to focus on growing international economies, better use technology and keep the focus on employees. "Disruptors" challenging UPS' focus on shipping and logistics should be considered opportunities, not threats, he added.

Abney also advocated for passage of two free trade agreements in international negotiations which he said would help the Atlanta-based company and American small businesses reach growing markets in Asia and other regions. He made his comments Monday to the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

UPS is encouraging negotiators to hold one of their sessions in the city because of its ties to transportation and shipping, Abney said. The company is one of the region's largest employers, with more than 10,000 employees in metro Atlanta.

"We understand fully that trade is a vital economic engine, not only for this city and this state, but for the United States and really for people throughout the globe," Abney said.

Abney, 58, began working for UPS as a part-time package loader when he was 18 and spent a year driving a delivery truck after college. He joked on Monday that he'd like to tell people that becoming CEO was the plan from the start. Instead, he credited UPS' tendency to promote from within and move employees into new jobs outside their comfort zone.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session following his comments, Abney joked that he wouldn't say whether "big customer"'s announced plans to use drones for customer deliveries are realistic. Abney said drone shipping does seem inevitable for time-sensitive orders though it could take years to address federal concerns about air space security.