UPS CEO takes on “trade bashing” by presidential candidates

It may be safe to say UPS chief executive David Abney is not a Trump supporter.

Abney, speaking Wednesday at a luncheon, said opportunities in emerging markets and other parts of the global economy should triumph over presidential candidates’ “trade bashing.”

“Notice I said ‘triumph,’ I did not say ‘trump,’” Abney quipped during his keynote speech at the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Global Impact Awards event. “I have a Mississippi accent, I know that. So I have to watch my words.”

UPS depends on global trade to help drive its business transporting goods around the world. It has long been a vehement advocate of free trade.

Abney said much political rhetoric about trade is “really … playing on a lot of emotions.”

Abney said 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, so trade wars or barriers could “put barriers up to 95 percent of the world’s consumers.” And over the next 15 years, three-quarters of the GDP growth in the world is expected to occur in emerging markets, he said.

“That’s why we think these free trade agreements are so important,” Abney said, citing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That trade deal, a top priority for President Barack Obama, was signed in February but has not been ratified by Congress. It has been criticized by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as well as labor groups and environmental groups.

The deal would get rid of most tariffs and trade barriers among 12 nations including the United States. Critics are concerned that it could cost American jobs and put corporate interests above environmental interests.

“Among the presidential candidates, it used to be the most popular behavior that they showed was kissing babies,” Abney said. “That has been replaced this election by bashing trade….”

During the presidential debates, “my wife will no longer sit in the same room with me because she’s tired of me yelling at the TV,” Abney said.