Caterpillar Chairman Doesn't Expect a Trade War

02/09/17 10:27 PM EST
By Andrew Tangel 

Caterpillar Inc. Chairman Doug Oberhelman is concerned about a potential trade war under President Donald Trump's administration, but is confident such a conflict won't erupt in the end.

"I worry a little bit," said Mr. Oberhelman, who is among corporate leaders named to a White House advisory group focused on boosting U.S. manufacturing employment.

But, Mr. Oberhelman added in a brief interview, "It's so early it's hard to say. I do think cooler heads will prevail. Everybody knows we've got to trade and I think in the end that's the way it'll work out."

Caterpillar supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which Mr. Trump scrapped soon after taking office in January. Mr. Oberhelman said bilateral trade agreements would work well, but warned competitors would outmaneuver the U.S. without quick action.

"Now that we've pulled away, we let the rules be written by somebody else and China is working on it," he said during a Thursday evening event hosted by The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. "We've got to move."

Mr. Oberhelman is stepping down at the end of March as head of Caterpillar's board of directors. He served as chief executive of the Peoria, Ill.-based maker of construction and mining equipment from 2010 until the end of last year.

Trade wasn't the only top issue Mr. Oberhelman said would be on his list of priorities in advising the White House. Top of the list would be overhauling U.S. corporate taxes, he said, adding that a so-called border-adjusted tax "will be very good for Caterpillar," given that it is a net exporter.

Overhauling American roads, bridges and other infrastructure should be key focus too, he said. Private capital, government spending and or other funding streams will likely need to be tapped for a broad set of public works projects, he said.

Mr. Oberhelman expressed support for portions of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul and the Obamacare health-care law, both of which have been criticized by Republicans in Congress and Mr. Trump.

Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 09, 2017 22:27 ET (03:27 GMT)

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