White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro is at the bottom of the list, with 60 percent of North American CFOs disapproving of his handling of the economy, followed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and President Donald Trump (53.3 percent).
Navarro has been an aggressive proponent of continued punitive tariffs for China and has been seen as the person fuelling Trump's personal obsession with reducing trade deficits. Last week the White House curtailed Navarro's role in shaping U.S. trade policy after Navarro engaged in a public clash with top economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who favors deescalating tensions with China. However, the White House also said it is making no changes to its current tariffs on Chinese goods and still may go ahead with steeper duties on the largest portion ($200 billion) of the affected goods in January. Forty percent of North American CFOs say they approve of how Kudlow is handling the economy, and just under 27 percent disapprove.
About a quarter of North America CFOs seem to think Congress should serve as a check on the Trump administration's worrisome trade policy, but they do not think trade should be the No. 1 priority for Congress in 2019, with just under 27 percent citing it as the top congressional issue. "Infrastructure" legislation has more support among CFOs.
(Note: The CNBC Global CFO Council Survey for the fourth quarter was conducted from Nov. 13–19, 2018. Thirty-seven of the 121 global members responded to the survey , including 15 North America members, 13 EMEA members and 9 APAC members.)
Complete survey results are below.