World Business Leaders Say Auto Tariffs Are Their Major Concern

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The Organization for International Investment has released its survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) of huge multinational companies. At the top of their list of concerns was tariffs on automobiles. The conclusion was based on how many other sectors the car industry touches.

The organization’s CFO Inbound Investment Survey was derived from completed questionnaires from 73 CFOs from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. It was done in October.

The organization’s president and CEO, Nancy McLernon, summed up the study’s conclusion:

The biggest takeaway from this survey is that the Administration’s trade policies are generating significant concerns for international companies that have major operations in the United States. International companies employ over seven million U.S. workers, offering wages and benefits that average more than $81,000, and export over $1 billion of goods a day to customers around the world. If the Administration imposes bygone industrial policy in the automotive sector under the pretext of national security, this survey shows real concern that similar action could creep into every corner of our economy. That will invite retaliation from our trading partners, limit opportunities for U.S. workers, raise prices for families and harm America’s economic competitiveness.

Most CFOs say that tariffs have not made a difference to their businesses so far. That may change. Only 4% said that they “viewed the U.S. business climate as improving for international companies.”

Why was the auto industry such a large part of the anxiety? According to the study, “International companies provide 43 percent of the motor vehicles and parts industry jobs in the United States, according to government data.”

And the worry is that if the car industry can be badly damaged by tariffs, the problem will spread quickly to other industries.