The U.S. is winning the trade war in the short term, but the tables could turn. That’s the word from Larry Fink, head of the world’s biggest money manager, BlackRock, which has more than $6 trillion of assets worldwide.
He was speaking at a Yahoo Finance conference in New York, where two protesters stormed the stage, angered by BlackRock’s investment in big weapons manufacturers.
Appearing unflustered by the scene, Fink went on to tell the finance-heavy audience that the U.S. is benefiting from the escalating trade war with China, as well as from developments in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“In the short run, it looks great for the U.S. and the U.S. stock market is rallying and the rest of the worlds’ markets are not,” Fink said.
He stressed he was worried about the long term and that based on his recent travels to Europe and Asia, his clients are concerned that some of America’s behavior is leading more non-American companies to pivot more toward China. And they question whether this could lead to a desire to have the renminbi replace the dollar as the currency of choice in five to ten years.
“The greatest problem that I see — and this is what I’m hearing from our clients — is this unilateralism that the United States has been taking,” he said. “The foundations of finance of globalization has been multilateralism and the question is, in the long run, does it change relationships, does it change allies, does it change the course, how we resolve problems.
“We all felt secure that this multilateralism would stabilize the world, but now that multilateralism is breaking down,” he said. “Populism is rising, focusing on individual needs of a country and those issues could — and I’m not saying will — create more volatility and could present greater problems.”
Fink’s comments came during a week where the trade war ratcheted up. President Trump said the U.S. would unleash tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on Monday. China retaliated hours later, stating that it would impose levies of $60 billion of U.S. imports.
That is playing out at the same time as the U.S. squares off with a raft of other countries on trade. This includes the U.S. and Mexico agreeing on a long-awaited deal to renew NAFTA, only for Canada to drag its heals.
Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who was also speaking at the conference, said he was “surprised” that Canada hadn’t signed up straight away, but reiterated that Sept. 30 was a hard deadline for it to agree to a deal. If Canada has not signed up by then, the U.S. and Mexico would move ahead without it.
It wasn’t just the trade war that was on Fink’s mind. The ceo also shared his thoughts on social media and Millennials, stating that he believes more leaders of companies and their boards are having a difficult time navigating social media.
“Social media is playing such a big role and negative exposures have immediate results,” he said. “Millennials are asking more out of companies than my generation did.”
He added that more people around the world want to associate themselves with a brand that they believe in and there’s no question that employees are more interested in working with organizations that they believe in.