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CEO Summit Survey: CEOs Say They Often Apologize for Trump

At the Chief Executive Leadership Institute's CEO Summit on December 12 and 13, business leaders weighed in on topics including President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, the arrest of Huawei's CFO, and the Brexit negotiations.

Seventy-six percent of leaders from business, academia, and government feel that President Trump is not effectively leading U.S. national security, and 75% often find themselves apologizing to international business partners regarding the president’s diplomatic messages. This is according to a survey of attendees at the 94th CEO Summit, hosted by the Yale School of Management’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI) on December 12 and 13.

In fact, 88% say that Trump’s negotiation style has cost the nation the trust of its allies. Following the President’s recent meetings with world leaders, a majority of attendees say he was outmaneuvered by both North Korea (65%) and Russia (72%).

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for Leadership Studies & Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management founder and CEO of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, said, “Once again, distance has grown between President Trump and the U.S. business community. This has profound consequences for CEOs’ global business activities as well as their faith in near-term U.S. financial stability. Indeed, it is astounding that the nation’s first business-leader president is so condemned by the nation’s top business leaders due to Trump’s dysfunctional negotiating style, with 88% of them stating that his negotiating style has alienated our allies. In fact, three-fourths of the CEOs surveyed say they even have to apologize to their own global business partners for Trump’s diplomatic messages. On other topics, business leaders do not think the president should intervene in the Canadian detention of Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, and 88% of them think it was right to hold her on criminal charges. They are feeling the blowback, as they now are curtailing their international travel; fully half of the CEOs surveyed say they are worried about their trips to China. This could be as powerful a barrier to U.S. China trade as tariffs. In fact, even more than trade friction, U.S. CEOs are most worried about U.S. political instability as the greatest threat to U.S. financial markets. That is a remarkable shift even from last year’s summit poll results.”

Huawei CFO arrest is supported; Trump shouldn’t intervene

The executives were also asked to share thoughts on the ongoing trade talks between the United States and China. Three in four (77%) agree that Canada was right to arrest Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, and just 20% would support an intervention by President Trump.

Executives were more divided on the impact Wanzhou’s detention will have on trade. Sixty percent feel Huawei’s troubles will impact China’s position in trade negotiations with the U.S. and Canada, while 40% don’t predict any impact. Further, CELI attendees were evenly divided on the chances that Wangzhou’s arrest would impact their own business dealings in China. The matter has made 49% of respondents worried about upcoming travel to the country, while 51 percent are unaffected.

Advice to Theresa May: hold fresh Brexit referendum

Looking across the pond, respondents were surveyed the day after British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote. With May still trying to pass a Brexit deal through her own government, 85% of attendees think that the U.K. hold a fresh referendum to reconfirm the public’s approval on exiting the EU. Respondents were divided on whether outside parties manipulated the U.K.’s original Brexit vote or not—52% agreed versus 48% against.

Tech regulation versus freedom of speech

Ninety percent of the attendees feel that the world needs more regulation over technology companies and privacy abuses. Specifically for social networks, 77% said that companies should be held responsible for the violent hate speech they allow to be posted and shared on their platforms. At the same time, respondents were split when asked if technology companies need to be regulated for violations of freedom of speech—56% agree to 46% disagree.

Responses were also split over Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg—56% want her to be replaced versus 44% who don’t.

Some predict recession

Worryingly, 48% of respondents expect that the U.S. will be in a recession by the end of 2019. The greatest threats to U.S. financial markets, according to 67%, are U.S. political instability and trade negotiations. A further 17% point to the national debt as cause for concern. Additionally, 86% are fretting about the growing market instability in Europe.