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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2859

Trump’s Triumph and Looming Global Trade Wars

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

With the suspension of the campaigns by the two remaining rivals, Donald J Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the forthcoming US presidential election, has set his sight firmly on the ultimate goal – the Oval Office. If Mr Trump is the human equivalent of a hurricane, the trail of destruction left behind in his march towards where he stands now, is not short of casualties of many kinds, ranging from political pundits to the opponents in his own party.

With his unique style, he took on media barons and self-righteous journalists with unprecedented ferocity, while subjecting them to a relentless barrage of insults, when others saw it as shooting in his foot.
Both plain-talking and addressing the issues that really matter to the American public, however, shielded Mr Trump from potential damage in the hour of need, which resulted in the creation of an unusual celebrity in the political realm.

Critics often see his inability to spell out a single policy in detail, let alone a policy speech, as a serious weakness for someone who aspires to be the leader of the Free World; there is some truth in it. On the other hand, those who clearly talked about policies with poetic overtures in the previous administrations did not do any better either, especially when it came to delivering on them.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.

Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood." Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The gradual erosion of the American influence - militarily, politically and economically – and the respect it once enjoyed as a fair player in the global political arena, just reflect the cataloger of policy failures in the past, something that Mr Trump managed to exploit with a master stroke of brilliance.

Recently, he has softened his extreme views on Muslim immigration into the US and may not even come down hard on illegal immigrants, once in office. Even his toughest critics seem to have given up on branding them as policy U-turns, as Mr Trump does not appear to be caring about very much about reversals; nor do they appear to be damaging him any significant way politically – judging by the favorable poll ratings.

Since he is not a politician with the claim of a stubborn ideological superiority, he may even prove that he is not as monstrous as he has been caricatured into in the popular press, in the event of landing in the White House. During the campaign, time and again, he has been showing this personal trait, which, of course, often was overshadowed by the disproportional coverage of his occasional frolics.

That, however, may not be the case in the corridors of power, among both the allies and foes. China, for instance, which often appears on the cross-hairs of the relatively-narrow field of vision of Mr Trump’s probing binoculars, may be already on an urgent soul-searching mission in order to find a feasible strategy in keeping Trump wrath at bay; Mr Trump has been referring to the widening trade deficit between the two countries, which has already exceeded $500 billion, even since he declared his desire to seek the nomination for the Republican party.

Mr Trump did not spare the friends of the US either: Mexico, the immediate neighbor of the US, often comes under his vitriolic attack for unfair trade practices and pouring drugs and criminals over the borders; Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia are often accused of not paying their fair share for protecting them; time and again during the campaign, he even branded NATO as something obsolete.

It is a fact that the Americans from the Rust Belt - upper North-eastern United States, the Great Lakes, and the Midwest States – who lost their livelihood due to rapid decline in the industrial sector, which once was the envy of the developed world, are attracted to Mr Trump like iron filings towards a magnet.

They pin their hopes on Mr Trump’s bold vow to tame China by imposing tariff on its exports, despite him being an ardent advocate of free trade. China is not the only country on Mr Trump’s radar, which the Republican nominee sees as the trouble makers behind keeping the US at a distinct disadvantage; if the brush is large enough, he wouldn’t hesitate to paint the entire developing world with the same, while triggering off a range of disasters for the struggling economies.

If he were to impose tariff on foreign goods, on one hand, the American public would lose the opportunity to buy cheap goods on the US soil, unless Mr Trump psychologically prepares them to embrace patriotism over consumerism by self-suggestion. On the other hand, it is hard to believe that the affected countries would just walk away with the tail between the legs – without resorting to punitive counter-measures.

On a positive note, Mr Trump has been describing himself as a deal maker throughout his business career. In this context, his approach very well will be based on negotiations – perhaps, very difficult - rather than reading the riot act to the competitors.

When sandwiched between electoral obligations and global realities, the room for manoeuvres, even for an outspoken leader like Mr Trump, gets smaller and smaller, especially when he tries to striking a balance in a complex world.

- Asian Tribune -

Trump’s Triumph and Looming Global Trade Wars
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