Global Business School Deans Are Concerned Over Donald Trump’s ‘America First’

Fears over presidency’s impact on exchange programs

Since Donald Trump’s election win in November 2016, the world’s business school community has reacted with outrage, uncertainty, and contradiction. Today, the Wharton grad is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

Emeric Peyredieu du Charlat, the new dean of France’s Audencia Business School, is concerned.

“We are very worried about what’s happening in the US,” he says. “Trump’s election campaign was centered on the idea that we have to go back to ‘America First.’

“It’s a wish to reinforce the borders of the US. And that will have an impact,” he continues. “It’s the first time we have a US government openly saying, ‘we don’t want people leaving the US.’”

Audencia has partnerships with the University of California, Berkeley, and Boston University in the US, as well as Aston Business School in the UK.

But Emeric is more concerned about the potential effects of the Donald Trump presidency than Brexit. In particular, over the school’s summer exchange program which sees around 100 American graduates come to France to learn about the European business environment each year.

“We’ve seen an American government giving corporations instructions to stop investment abroad,” he says.

This month, Donald Trump warned General Motors on Twitter that it would face a “big border tax” if it continued its manufacturing operations in Mexico.

“We are worried that he might say the same thing to American business schools,” Emeric continues.

Dr. Xiang Bing, the founding dean of China’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), is similarly concerned. China is the world’s biggest exporter, by far. Its export-led model is dependent on trade with the US.

“The US could get away if it wanted to,” he says. “If Mr. Trump stays in the camp of protectionism and anti-globalization, that could potentially impact some of the world’s major economies, including China and Europe as well.”

CKGSB’s executive-level alumni – including Alibaba founder Jack Ma - account for over 16% of China’s GDP. Much of China’s growth has depended on cheap production and low-cost labor.

“China has played the domestic helper role for the US,” Xiang Bing continues. “We have made America great!

“The US is the most powerful and influential country on earth. It’s the big brother of the family. If the big brother of the family is self-centered and only looks after his own interests, that could be a disaster for the global order.”

What can be seen as a challenge for the world’s business schools, is also an opportunity. Some business schools are taking active steps to target politically-disillusioned American MBA applicants looking to study outside the US.

Within the US, business confidence is high. In a recent study, salary benchmarking site Emolument asked professionals if they thought their company was likely to perform better in 2017 than it did in 2016.

81% of professionals in the US expect their business to do better under Donald Trump, compared to 59% in post-Brexit Britain.

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