Poll: Execs Feared Trade Conflicts Before Tariffs

NEW YORK – More than one third – 38% – of business executives are worried about potential trade conflicts between the United States and major trade partners, with 9% describing themselves as significantly concerned, finds the American Institute of CPAs recently survey of CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other senior-level CPAs.

The trade-related questions, a section of the second-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, were asked May 8-23, before the Trump Administration’s announcement May 31 of steel and aluminum tariffs for some trading partners.

Forty percent of those surveyed say their business would be impacted by the imposition of U.S. tariffs or by potential retaliation from trading partners. Of that group, 22% said they would face a significant business impact, while 57% said they would experience a moderate one.

“While optimism about the U.S. economy remains high, we did see a slight dampening of enthusiasm in the past quarter in part because of trade concerns,” said Arleen R. Thomas, AICPA managing director for global markets. “Most business executives – 52% – said a more protectionist approach to trade policy would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, while only 16% feel it would have a positive impact.”

The top three concerns about rising trade tensions, according to the survey, are:

  • Global economic slowdown, 35%.
  • Rising costs for business, 20%
  • Rising prices on goods or services sold, 19%

The second-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted May 8-23, and included 831 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points.

A copy of the report can be found on aicpa.org.

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