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Sep 28, 2018

BlackBerry’s John Chen sounds alarm on Trump's auto tariff threat

BlackBerry CEO is frugal, but won't limit himself on a valuable acquisition

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As tensions continue to build around NAFTA renegotiations, the chief executive officer of BlackBerry Ltd. said he hopes the uncertainty around trade, specifically auto tariffs, is resolved soon.

“I think just in general, any tariff is not a good outcome for businesses,” John Chen told BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman in an interview Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued his latest threat to impose tariffs on Canadian car imports Wednesday after telling reporters in New York he was “very unhappy” with Canada’s negotiators.

In its latest earnings report Friday, BlackBerry surpassed analysts’ profit expectations and posted record-high revenue for its BlackBerry Technology Solutions division as a result of growth in its automotive business.

With BlackBerry’s big push into providing software for the automobile sector amid an ongoing turnaround effort, Chen says the uncertainty around the trade negotiations isn’t good for industries that do business in the U.S. and Canada.

“All the conversations going on [around tariffs] is adding uncertainty, and uncertainty is never good for businesses,” Chen said, adding he understands there are political motivations behind the drawn-out trade talks.  

“They all have their political reason to do what they need to do … but I wish that they would settle it very quickly.”

Chen added the biggest impact BlackBerry could face is if the tariffs would push automakers to decrease car production.  

“As far as my auto business, the good news is our business is global,” Chen said.

“As long as the number of cars being built is not being reduced, which means maybe the cars are built [locally] in countries for their own consumption, we’ll still be okay.”