AICPA Survey: Business Executives Worry About Higher Risk of Trade Wars

  • Some 38 percent of those surveyed expressed concern about potential trade conflicts
  • A global economic slowdown and rising costs were cited as top risks
  • Most business executives have a neutral view of Brexit’s impact on their companies

NEW YORK--()--Some 38 percent of business executives said they were worried about potential trade conflicts between the United States and major trade partners, with nine percent describing themselves as significantly concerned, according to an American Institute of CPAs survey of CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other senior-level CPAs in business and industry.

Forty percent of those surveyed said their business would be impacted by the imposition of U.S. tariffs or by potential retaliation from trading partners. Of that group, 22 percent said they would face a significant business impact, while 57 percent said they would experience a moderate one. The risk of a global economic slowdown, rising business costs, and rising prices on goods or services sold were top reasons for concern.

The trade-related questions, a section of the second-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, were asked May 8-23, before the U.S. Administration’s May 31 announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs for some trading partners.

“While optimism about the U.S. economy remains high, we did see a slight dampening of enthusiasm in the past quarter in part because of trade concerns,” said Arleen R. Thomas, CPA, CGMA, managing director of Americas Market, Global Offerings & CGMA Exam, Management Accounting for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “Most business executives – 52 percent – said a more protectionist approach to trade policy would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, while only 16 percent feel it would have a positive impact.”

Greatest concern about rising trade tensions     Percentage
Global economic slowdown     35
Rising cost for my business     20
Rising prices on goods or services sold     19
I don’t have concerns     11

Less availability/prohibitive pricing of imported products

Greater barrier to entry in global markets     4
Other     4
Not sure     3

Asked about Brexit, the United Kingdom’s planned withdrawal from the European Union, 84 percent of business executives said they expected it would have a neutral impact on their business. Four percent said it would have a negative impact, while one percent said it would be positive. Another 10 percent said they were unsure of its implications.


The second-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted May 8-23, 2018, and included 831 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on

About the American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 431,000 members in 137 countries and territories, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for its members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, offers specialized credentials, builds the pipeline of future talent and drives professional competency development to advance the vitality, relevance and quality of the profession.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and Ewing, NJ.

Media representatives are invited to visit the AICPA Press Center at

About the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants, combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power opportunity, trust and prosperity for people, businesses and economies worldwide. It represents 667,000 members and students across 184 counties and territories in public and management accounting and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigor and resources, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.


American Institute of CPAs
Jeff May, 212-596-6122

Release Summary

AICPA survey: Some 38 percent of business executives are worried about potential trade conflicts between the United States and major trade partners


American Institute of CPAs
Jeff May, 212-596-6122