The biggest drop in sentiment came from CEOs in North America, where optimism fell from 63 percent in 2018 to 37 percent this year. Part of the slowdown may be explained by a declining enthusiasm for Washington's economic policies.
President Donald Trump's headline presence at the 2018 meeting in the Swiss Alps coincided with tremendous enthusiasm for the chief's economic success with C-Suite WEF participants publicizing the benefits of US tax cuts. The president's decision to stay out of this year's event due to the US government's standoff, however, comes amid expectations that the "Trump collision" is beginning to disappear and that trade tensions with China are beginning to to bite.
"What you have now is not much more positive, you see a lot more disadvantage with the political agenda and the commercial conflicts, and there is no promise or hope for anything else, like infrastructure," explained Moritz.
The degree of concern about the US-China trade struggle is shared fairly evenly between the executives of the two countries participating in the conflict. "Ninety-eight percent of US CEOs and 90 percent of China's CEOs expressed these concerns," according to global audit firm PwC.
Despite the noise of the saber over the tariffs, however, the US and China remain the main markets for attracting investments outside the home market of a CEO. The US maintained its leading position with a 27% popularity, falling from 46% in 2018, while China also fell to 24%, down from 33%. Research indicates that the pain of trade among the world's superpowers may be the gain of India, which has earned the distinction of being the rising star on a list of more attractive investment destinations on the PwC list.
"When you look at what Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has done to that country and its trajectory, there are still challenges, but there are many opportunities if you look at the workforce they have, the consumer base and the need to infrastructure, "Moritz said, admitting that the upcoming elections in India could provide a key test for Modi.
"As you take India from that country-focused country to a large global player, I think it's your challenge assuming it goes through the next election and seizes the opportunities."