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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2732

President-elect Trump’s First Three Weeks on the Doorsteps of Office

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

Donald Trump, the president-elect, has been reiterating his election pledge, ‘making America great again’, during the grand tour, ‘USA Thank You’, while keeping the highly-anticipated controversies to a minimum.

He thanked the supporters of Ohio, a state that was instrumental in sealing Mr Trump’s victory, while referring to the deal he clinched last week with Carrier, the air-conditioning manufacturing company that came heavily under the spotlight during the campaign over the move by the latter to shift its operations to Mexico, citing competitive issues.

According to the deal, most of the jobs will stay in the United States, dealing a significant blow to the Mexican economy – in the long run.

In the speech, Mr Trump went on to say that similar moves will be made all over the United States in the coming days – a worrying development for the developing countries which dream of US investments. These are the clearest indications yet, what it really means, when Mr Trump says ‘America first’.

In this context, why political – and economic - observers are keen on the nature of the relationship between the US, the most powerful economy, and China, the second most powerful trading nation, is perfectly understandable.

The relations between the two nations were strained under Obama administration especially over the artificial island-building activities in the South China Sea. It is highly unlikely that relations will prosper under Mr Trump, who hardly had any kind words towards China during the campaign for what he called ‘currency manipulation’ in order to make its exports cheaper at the expense of the US products.

Against this backdrop, the congratulatory phone call made by the president of Taiwan, could not have come at a worse time; the Chinese anger snowballed into a serious diplomatic incident in a relatively short time.

Mr Trump, in a tweet, defended his response by saying that he thanked someone who congratulated him on his victory; then the former went on arguing that the US could sell military equipment worth billions to Taiwan, yet the president-elect could not even be polite to someone in return of a congratulatory gesture.

In the absence of an explanation from the Trump team, it was a member of the outgoing White House who came out and said the status quo would remain, when it comes to China.

Since Mr Trump is prepared to talk – or even thank – anyone who makes calls in congratulating him on his historic victory, he could expect a similar gesture, perhaps from Dalai Lama, which could send China ballistic.

It is, however, too early to say whether Mr Trump is planning to change the status quo when it comes to China and Taiwan, as a part of the strategy to ‘tame’ China.

In another surprising move, Mr Trump branded Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, a ‘terrific guy’, after latter congratulated him on his victory, which has the potential to make the policymakers in India to scratch their heads in disbelief.

Mr Trump’s guarded admiration for President Duterte of the Philippines, who recently described President Obama as a son of a b****, is also a classic way of breaking with the tradition by Mr Trump.

In his victory speech after the victory, Mr Trump said that he would work with any nation that is prepared to work with the US. The recent moves made by the president-elect show that he was prepared to take the not-well-trodden path to achieve what he wants, while keeping the existing political dogma at bay, favouring a more pragmatic approach.

After his victory, hundreds of foreign leaders may have called and congratulated him on his fabled victory. Those who receive a glowing tribute afterwards, however, remain to be very low.

By inexplicable coincidence, those ‘lucky’ ones seem to be having one thing in common – the ability to communicate with Mr Trump in English without the involvement of animated translators.

A tribe of politicians, who used to condemn Mr Trump during the campaign, buried the hatchet recently by talking to him on the phone directly without intermediaries. His gesture, in thanking the president of Taiwan, shows that the approach may be extended to foreign leader too rather than living in the past.

The developments that we see in the first three weeks are indicative of a more pragmatic statesman at the White House, despite the negativity created by a section of powerful media to the contrary.

- Asian Tribune -

President-elect Trump’s First Three Weeks on the Doorsteps of Office
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