Boeing (BA) CEO Dennis Muilenburg is keeping a close eye on U.S. trade relations with China and the EU.
Stocks were mostly lower on Thursday after the Trump administration said it would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Starting June 1, the U.S. will impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and tariffs of 10% on aluminum products, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters.
The tariffs raised the risk that officials from the EU will follow through on a threat to slap similar levies on $3.4 billion worth of U.S. goods that are imported into the bloc.
China also remains hot button topic for global multinational companies like Boeing. Muilenburg is optimistic the U.S. and China will realize that working together to hammer out fair trade terms is the right course of action.
"China is an important relationship for us. So we look at the aerospace market for commercial airplanes and the next 20 years, the world will need 41,000 new airplanes and more than 7,000 of them will be in China. We are doing well in China, and our Chinese customers are very important to us," explained Muilenburg, who added that the relationship between the two countries also helps create U.S. jobs.
"We remain hopeful that the U.S. and China will reach a conclusion that is productive for both countries," Muilenburg said.
To be sure, the stakes are high for Boeing.
About 70% of Boeing's planes delivered in 2017 were to countries outside the United States. Of that, 22% were directed to China. A full on trade war with overseas counterparts could slow Boeing's torrid growth, which has been a key underpinning of a 90% stock rise the last year.
"Escalation of global trade tensions could weigh investors' perception of underlying aerospace fundamentals," cautions JPMorgan analyst Seth Seifman.