China Development Forum

The world's biggest shipping line sees other threats to trade besides the US-China fight

Key Points
  • Trade conflict between the U.S. and China is not the only threat to global import and export activities, said Soren Skou, chief executive of A.P. Moller-Maersk.
  • Additional risks include trade negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union, and potential changes in the Europe-China relationship, Skou added.
A.P. Moller-Maersk is the largest container shipping company in the world.
Andia | UIG via Getty Images

While the U.S. and China are negotiating a trade deal, the world's biggest container shipping company is watching out for other problems between major economies.

One risk to import and export activity include the United States' outstanding trade negotiations with the European Union. Another is the possibility of changes in the relationship between Europe and China, Soren Skou, chief executive of A.P. Moller-Maersk, said on Sunday.

"First of all, it's pretty clear that the U.S. administration and EU have an outstanding discussion. It was kind of kicked to a corner last summer. While U.S. and China are negotiating, I'm sure that there'll be a revival of discussions about car tariffs and what-not between the U.S. and Europe," Skou told CNBC's Eunice Yoon at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

In addition, "Europe wants to reshape the relationship with China, so there's plenty of high level politics going on," he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on European cars and auto parts last year. But Trump reportedly promised European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he would hold off on those tariffs for the time being.

European 'naivety' toward China

Meanwhile, European leaders have been increasingly critical of the bloc's relationship with China, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying this week that Europe should end its "naivety" when dealing with Beijing.

Macron's comment came amid Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to European countries including Italy and France.

If those developments worsen, Skou said, theywill hit global trade at a time when activity has already slowed.

Growth in global trading volume moderated from 5.3 percent in 2017 to 4 percent last year amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund. That growth is expected to hold at 4 percent in the next two years, the IMF said.