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Economy

Nearly 40% of Japan business chiefs down on Trump: poll

Worries over trade deals, dollar and immigration

TOKYO -- Some 37% of Japanese corporate leaders in a recent Nikkei Inc. survey said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump would have a negative impact on their business, citing uncertainty over policy under the new administration.

Just 24.7% said Trump would be a positive force. Those seeing him as bad for business were asked to choose up to three reasons. The most popular, at 72.2%, was withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement.

Trump has vowed to pull the U.S. out of the TPP upon taking office, effectively scuttling the deal. Companies already making moves with the TPP in mind would be forced to rethink strategies. The next-most-popular strikes against Trump were concern over a weakening by the dollar, at 42.6%, and an exclusionary immigration policy, at 22.2%.

Of the 106 respondents with operations in the U.S., 79.2% did not expect any change to their business there. Most explained that it was unclear whether Trump could keep his promises of massive job creation and stepped-up infrastructure investment. Some thought that the American economy could improve overall but were unsure whether their own companies would benefit.

Trump has also expressed a desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Although 73.8% of the 61 companies with operations in the popular auto production base of Mexico expected no changes there, 19.7% did foresee a negative impact.

Back home, 64.4% of all respondents expected the Japanese economy to stay flat -- down 14.5 points from the September survey. Sluggish consumption was the top reason for this cautious outlook.

"The Japanese people are still living very defensively," said Junji Ueda, president of FamilyMart Uny Holdings. "Unless we can dispel concerns over social welfare and other issues, we won't be able to revive the economy."

Respondents were also asked to look six months down the road. The most popular response, at 48.6%, was that the economy would be growing at a moderate pace. The recent softening of the yen could bolster exports, and some companies will likely benefit from OPEC's agreement to reduce output.

(Nikkei)

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