New York (AFP) – US business sentiment has soared after tax cuts, but the gains could be undone by restrictive trade policy in the Trump era, the Business Roundtable said Tuesday.
Business Roundtable president Joshua Bolten warned that corporate confidence faces a “possible major headwind” from shifting trade policies and that a US exit from NAFTA would be a “disaster” for US companies.
The lobbying group, which represents large US companies, released a quarterly business survey that showed surging expectations for hiring and capital investment after President Donald Trump signed massive US tax cuts into law in December.
But the survey of chief executives, which came in at the highest-ever level in the index’s 15-year history, was conducted in February prior to Trump’s controversial decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Questions about trade dominated a brief conference call with reporters.
“There are issues (around trade),” said JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, who serves as chairman of the roundtable.
“But the right way to go about that is to really think it through strategically with the allies and make sure we’re doing the right thing and not doing these one-off things which tend to backfire.”
Bolten said the group was working to “scale back” the steel and aluminum tariffs and described other levies suggested by Trump administration officials in response to foreign tariffs on US goods as bad for business.
“Predictability and consistency is absolutely crucial for all of our CEOs’ planning,” Bolten said.
Bolten also expressed worry over the state of talks on the North America Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has sometimes said the US might quit.
“We are strongly opposed to any direction in the negotiations that might result in US withdrawal from NAFTA, which would be a disaster not so much for the Mexicans and the Canadians, but for US businesses and exporters,” he said.
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