America's biggest and most iconic companies will be the ones to suffer if the U.S. plows ahead with trade tariffs on China, economist Jim O'Neill told CNBC on Tuesday.
"I often say to people that America's most iconic modern company, Apple, has for three years sold more iPhones to Greater China than it has to the U.S. So ultimately, if the U.S. genuinely takes this kind of belligerent stance, it's going to be the U.S.' best-growing companies that will suffer," the chairman of think tank Chatham House told CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange."
He added that China and the U.S. had been the force behind the majority of global economic growth in recent years, with more and more of that growth being built on the Chinese consumer.
"Since the start of the decade, 85 percent of all global GDP has come from China and the U.S., and the rest of us hang off it," said O'Neill, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. "In the Chinese regard, more and more of that (growth) is coming from the Chinese consumer."
"There's this feeling that the U.S. is insulated," he added. "But the U.S. ... is an economy that is dominated by the absolute level of its consumer, and for the U.S. to do well the rest of this decade and beyond, it's got to connect more to the rest of the world.
"So if the U.S. is going to go attacking more and more important places in terms of trade fights, there's no way that U.S. big multinationals are going to grow."