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CFOs worldwide are concerned populism is hurting the world's economy

Silvia Amaro

The rising tide of political populism has had a negative impact on global economic growth over the last six months, according to a new survey conducted by CNBC of chief financial officers of the world's leading companies.

However, there has not been an impact on their company's capital expenditure plans.

The main external risk for CFOs and their companies remained consumer demand.

Meanwhile, the protectionist approach of U.S. President Donald Trump is a source of concern for chief financial officers across the globe.

Chief financial officers (CFOs) of the world's biggest companies were particularly concerned about the prospect of a trade war between the United States and China.

In the latest CNBC Global CFO Council survey, 23 percent of the respondents said they are very concerned that the new U.S. administration will provoke a trade war with China and 72 percent said they are somewhat concerned.

Even before taking on the role of president, Trump accused China of being a currency manipulator and threatened to impose a tariff as high as 45 percent on Chinese exports into the U.S.

In its trade policy agenda, Trump suggested that the U.S. is not bound by World Trade Organization decisions, meaning it can unilaterally impose higher taxes and other restrictions on Chinese goods if they flood the U.S. market.

If this happens, China is likely to retaliate to protect its economy and spark a war between the two.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in January that "no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war".

Problems in global trade have direct repercussions on global businesses. This is why uncertainty regarding the future of trade and tax policies in the U.S. was the second most important external risk for CFOs.

The survey was conducted between March 1 and March 10.

Complete survey results below:

(Note: Forty of the 102 current members of the CNBC Global CFO Council responded to this quarter's survey, including 21 U.S.-based members. Members represent a diverse mix of public and private companies from around the world, with more than $4 trillion in market capitalization.)




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