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Survey: CEOs worry China trade relations could be 'rocky' for foreseeable future

Jessica Smith
·Reporter

A new survey shows executives that do business in the United States and China are “cautiously optimistic” about the future of their businesses — but they worry a trade deal between the two countries may not address all their major concerns.

The executives are also concerned trade relations between the world’s two largest economies will follow a “rocky path” for the foreseeable future, according to the survey.

This comes as negotiators continue to try and hammer out a trade deal in Washington.

“I don't want to predict the deal or not a deal, but we're very well along,” President Trump told reporters on Friday morning.

The U.S.-China Business Council, which represents American companies that do business in China, and the Committee of 100 — a U.S. nonprofit that works to “advance dialogue” between the two countries — surveyed 20 American chief executives and 35 Chinese executives.

Eight of the Chinese companies surveyed were state-owned enterprises, though the USCBC said there were no “appreciable” differences between the private companies and state-owned enterprises.

Most CEOs expect a trade deal

Seventy-seven percent of executives said they expected a partial agreement between the United States and China. Only 4% of CEOs surveyed thought the two countries would fail to come to an agreement.

Chinese business leaders were more optimistic than Americans about the chances of a deal and that business would eventually return to normal.

Sixty-three percent of the Chinese CEOs expect U.S.-China relations to go back to business-as-usual after a trade deal, compared to only 24% of American executives.

Less than half of the CEOs said the trade dispute has affected their ability to do business with their U.S./Chinese counterparts — and 27% said the tensions have impacted their brand. The survey indicated more Chinese executives have experienced problems than American CEOs.

The majority of executives from both countries said regular presidential meetings will be imperative going forward.

Most of the executives plan to increase or maintain investment in the next year.

Chinese CEOs are prioritizing US less

USCBC President Craig Allen called the survey reflect a “pragmatic” outlook.

“Businesses in both countries plan to stay engaged with most planning to maintain or increase investments,” said Allen. “However, a minority of U.S. and Chinese companies are planning to curtail investments, believing that business conditions aren’t likely to improve enough.”

All of the American executives said the Chinese market would be a priority in the next five years. Fewer than half of Chinese CEOs said the U.S. market would be a priority in that same timeframe.

“The challenges for these companies in each other’s markets are reflected in the survey outcomes. While Chinese companies are more confident that business will return to normal after an agreement, fewer are prioritizing the United States than their American counterparts are in their approach to China,” said C100 Chairman H. Roger Wang.

Trump has said a trade deal could be announced within the next four weeks.

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.

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