Tariff talk worries some business executives

Rising costs and prices were among the concerns.

Potential trade conflicts between the United States and its major economic partners give 38% of finance decision-makers reason for moderate or significant concern, according to a survey of U.S. leaders in business and industry.

Responses from the middle of May, before the administration of President Donald Trump announced plans to place tariffs on goods imported from countries such as China, show that 40% of CPA decision-makers said their business would be affected by a trade conflict. Of that group, 22% called the impact significant, and 57% predicted a moderate impact.

Overall, 35% said their businesses would suffer no impact as a result of a trade conflict, and 21% said they weren't sure. The top reasons for concern were a general economic slowdown (35%), followed by rising costs (20%) and rising prices on goods or services sold (19%).

More than half of business and industry leaders in the May survey said the impact of a more protectionist approach to trade policy would be negative. Twenty-two percent said the impact would be neutral, 16% said a protectionist approach would have a positive impact, and 11% said they weren't sure.

Separately, the quarterly Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey showed that 91% of CEOs see trade-related increases in costs of imported goods as a moderate or serious risk.

That survey had record-high overall sentiment in the first quarter of 2018. While the outlook remains positive, uncertainty regarding U.S. trade policy led to the survey's first decline in economic sentiment in nearly two years.

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