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Carroll School of Management

Trade Agreements

David Abney

Chairman and CEO, UPS

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

May 19, 2016

TAKEAWAY: Trade Agreements

Audience Member:
Thank you for your remarks today. They were excellent. I’m Maura Banta. I happen to work for IBM. We’re all in TPP with you. I’ve spent some time in DC talking to the Massachusetts delegation about TPP. And on the far left, they are afraid of job loss and environment. On the right, they’re saying something should happen but won’t happen with this Congress. My real fear is that nothing is going to happen, and then it’s going to roll into the next administration—that Hillary Clinton will not be able to do anything because of NAFTA and the afterglow of that. So we’re talking about potentially six or seven years before we get this right. And I guess I wonder if UPS has any magic that IBM hasn’t thought about to move it along.

I don’t know that I’d call it magic, but I think slight optimism—how is that? We do believe that there is a window. Now, I don’t know if the window is big enough to drive a truck through it or if it’s so small that you’re not going to be able to get the smallest thing through it. But there are enough members of Congress that in the past have supported this that we think it is still a slight possibility this year. Now, it would have to be in a lame duck session. There’s no doubt about that. And I am not at all predicting that this is going to happen. I’m saying we think there’s a slight chance that it could.  

We believe that there are certain Democrats that have consistently voted for trade—that a lot of them would hold. And we also believe that there’s a lot of Republicans that in the past—a greater percentage have supported trade. And even though their presidential candidates on either party’s not supporting this, we think it’s a possibility. If it doesn’t happen, then we’re going to have to see when the new president comes in.  

Obviously, if you base it on how they’ve been campaigning and how they feel today, you would say there’s next to no chance that they would address it. But all of us, when we step into a new job, we sometimes find out that reality is a little different than what we thought when we were going into the job. There was a few times I questioned UPS CEOs. I understand a little better now what some of their thinking was. So I’m not going to say that people may not adjust their views, too. I’m not trying to say they’re flip-flopping, because we all have to look at present situations, and we have to decide what’s appropriate for now.