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JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon talks China, trade and immigration in his annual letter

Andy Serwer
Editor in Chief

Stating that “U.S. global engagement is needed more than ever,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon lays out a case for how trade issues with China should be addressed and why resolving immigration is so critical to our national well-being.

Writing in his widely-read annual letter to shareholders—coming in this year at 47 pages—Dimon stakes a strong globalist position, perhaps not surprising for the leader of one of the biggest banks in the world. Dimon argues though that “ceding America’s leadership role on the world stage is a bad idea for everyone.” And he writes that “the [global] system, built at great sacrifice, continues to serve our interests. It should be preserved and defended – ideally under strong U.S. leadership.”

Dimon writes: “Today’s world is as complex and dynamic as ever. Things like trade, immigration, technology and social media…all are changing how we live and how we do business. A natural reaction to this disruption might be to turn inward, to build walls.” That would be a mistake suggests Dimon. “Reversing the interconnectedness built by our post-World War II institutions is neither desirable nor feasible. As a nation, we cannot isolate ourselves any more than we can stem the ocean’s tide.”

Dimon, 62, has been CEO of JPMorgan Chase since December 2005. With $2.53 trillion in assets, JPMorgan is the nation’s largest bank, and under Dimon its shareholders have been richly rewarded, with its stock price up some 400% over the past 13 years (when Dimon joined the bank as president), almost twice the gains of the overall stock market.

With his success, Dimon has become a sought-out advisor and confidant to CEOs and Presidents alike, including Donald Trump. President Trump has praised Dimon’s acumen and expertise but the two have also disagreed on some issues —including trade and immigration.

On how specifically to deal with China, Dimon writes that the US “should define very clearly, and in detail, what it wants from China, with “a distinct timeline – and determine what the reaction would be if it is not met.” The US “should listen closely to China about any legitimate complaints it may have. This should be done in partnership with our largest allies, particularly Japan and Europe.”

Dimon says we “should revisit the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fix the parts considered unfair. The TPP could be an excellent economic and strategic agreement between America and its allies, particularly Asia. This is not against China: The country could at some point be offered the opportunity to enter the TPP if it demonstrates a willingness to meet its standards, which would improve upon the rules-based global trading system under American leadership.”

As for immigration, he writes: “We need to resolve immigration — it is tearing apart our body politic and damaging our economy. Immigration reform is important both morally and economically. Immigration has been a critical part of America’s economic and cultural vitality.” Dimon says we need to have proper border control and merit based immigration. He says Dreamers should get a path to citizenship as should “law-abiding, hardworking undocumented immigrants.” And he adds, “People immigrating to this country should be taught American history, our language and our principles.”

Dimon’s annual letter has become a must-read for Wall Streeters and executives for its pithy insights and reasoned thinking. He’s developed close relationships with other high-profile CEOs such as Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. In fact, JP Morgan recently announced the formation of a new healthcare cooperative with Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon to provide care for their employees and perhaps provide a template for the rest of the country.

As is typical in his letters, Dimon also touches on a host of other issues. He writes about cyber security: “We cannot do enough as a country when it comes to cybersecurity. However, cyber law in the United States is inadequate regarding banks and government entities.”

As for the chances of a financial panic “I would give it low odds,” he says, but he reminds us that “financial markets have life of their own.”

Dimon writes: “Our economy has grown approximately 20% in the last eight years, but this stands in contrast with prior average recoveries where growth would have been more than 40%.”

He writes positively about the Trump tax cut: “I am pleased that we did the right thing – not the easy thing. Congress took a historic step in 2017 to reform America’s broken and outdated tax code.”

But he is negative about our government institutions saying that our founding fathers “would study and work hard within the Constitution to redesign and reformulate how government should function so that it works properly. We will eventually need to do the same.”

Finally, Dimon writes: “We must all collaborate and respect each other to make the world a better place,” he says, concluding on a hopeful—and global—note.

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Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter.