UK CEOs warn return to protectionism is greatest threat to business growth

Protectionism is the greatest threat to the UKs economic growth, according to a survey of UK leaders and CEOs from around the world.

The survey, carried out by big four auditor KPMG, asked 150 UK leaders and a further 1,150 global CEOs about their future investment plans and the challenges and opportunities facing their companies.

Two thirds of UK leaders and more than half of international CEOs said isolationist and territorial policies are the greatest threat to their business growth.

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Bill Michael, chairman and senior partner at KPMG UK said:

“Many governments and businesses are still grappling with unforeseen developments, such as Brexit and the rise of economic nationalism, which are having a seismic impact on their decision-making.

“There is a pervasive sense of public frustration that globalisation is not working for broader society.

“If world trade doors continue to close, there will be an inevitable impact on global growth; this persistent retrenchment is of huge concern to the business leaders I speak to.”

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The financial services provider said that while protectionism has been seen as a method to protect jobs and boost local economies in the short term, the business leaders KPMG surveyed are increasingly concerned that such policies are ineffective in the long term.

“We need a connected economy, both internationally and domestically, for Britain to thrive,” said Michael. “It must be a priority to increase collaboration between business, government and academia, drive social mobility and unlock the talent British businesses need.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of increasing global trade tensions, a majority of leaders predicted conservative growth this year, with 61 per cent saying that their business would grow by less than two per cent in the next 12 months.

Leaders in the UK, and other European CEOs were more pessimistic about their countrys growth prospects in comparison to their global peers, the study found.

While 85 per cent of CEOs in the US said they were confident about their countrys future growth potential, just two thirds of UK CEOs said they were confident or very confident in the growth prospects for the UK, a fall of 11 percentage points on last years figures.

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