- Getty/Win McNamee
- JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says President Donald Trump’s trade fight with China is a problem for American companies.
- Dimon said that while price increases due to the tariffs would be detrimental, the bigger problem is their second-order effects.
- Businesses could decide to delay capital investment or move manufacturing outside the US in response to the trade war – moves that would hurt US economic growth.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has some concerns about President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
On the same day that a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods went into effect – adding to the tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods that were already in place – Dimon warned that the problems with the “trade skirmish” were not limited to the direct cost increases from the duties.
During a Monday interview with CNBC, Dimon said that while the tariffs were a “tax on America,” the real danger would come from companies’ responses to the cost increases.
“Remember, people do other things,” Dimon said. “They have other supply lines. But it’s a $20 trillion economy. So that is a negative. The real negative isn’t that – it’s confidence, consistency. If people start reducing investment, if people start moving their supply chains around, that we have seen already moves the markets a little bit.”
Dimon’s point is that while the direct effects of the tariffs – higher costs for businesses and higher prices for consumers – may produce a slight growth lag, the larger disruption would come from the tariffs’ second-order effects.
The uncertainty over trade policy is already becoming an undercurrent in business and consumer-confidence measures, the latest being a survey of 141 US CEOs by Business Roundtable released Monday. (Dimon is the group’s chairman.)
Roughly two-thirds of the executives surveyed said they believed the tariffs would be a moderate or significant drag on their companies’ capital-spending plans.
“Current trade policies and uncertainty about future trade policies are having negative effects, especially on capital investment,” Joshua Bolten, the CEO of Business Roundtable, said in a release. “Decreases in capital investment not only impact the operations of Business Roundtable companies, less spending on equipment and facilities also squeezes small- and medium-sized suppliers and the millions of Americans they employ.”
In turn, the slip in confidence and uncertainty around trade policy could cause firms to delay investment or hiring. Or they could decide to move their supply chains to an area less affected by the tariffs. The most notable example of a supply-chain shift was Harley-Davidson, which announced earlier this year that it would move some of its production overseas to avoid the European Union’s retaliatory tariffs on American motorcycles.
As more and more businesses start to grapple with the tariffs, several may also decide to shift manufacturing out of the US to avoid the trade upheaval. A cascade of moves could present more of a problem for the US economy than the price increases.
While these changes are theoretical, Dimon said that further escalation of the trade conflict could end up canceling out some of the more beneficial parts of Trump’s economic policy.
“We really don’t think it’s a great way to go about it,” Dimon said. “It could easily offset some of the benefits that we’ve seen from regulatory reform and tax reform.”