The shock nature of Donald Trump’s victory in the US election has left the world scrambling to work out what it means for them.
As a candidate, the President-elect made bombastic statements which would spell a dramatic shift in American foreign policy. Markets have struggled to predict what a Trump administration could mean for the economy, and his comments on the environment could have profound implications for the planet as a whole.
The Independent has spoken to a team of analysts at Verisk Maplecroft, experts in each of their own fields, to try and work out what having Mr Trump as President means for them.
“A Trump presidency is unlikely to impact trade relations between the US and Africa, but we may see aid budgets slashed with major implications for economic growth and public debt levels. East African countries in particular have benefitted disproportionally from US aid, but might be spared due to their importance for regional security and the fight against terrorism.”
- Ben Payton, Head of Africa Research, tells The Independent
Analysis: It is likely that Trump will be restrained – to some extent – by career officials in the State Department from implementing radical changes to US Africa policy. Even if he is genuinely determined to cut aid and rewrite trade relations, other more pressing priorities are likely to get in the way.
Nevertheless, cuts to the US$7.1bn package that the US plans to deliver to Africa next year would chime with Trump’s populist rhetoric. Trump has claimed that “every penny” donated to Africa is “stolen”, and in 2014 he criticised Obama for helping fight Ebola.
Since most African exports to the US are either natural resources or low-value goods, lobby groups rarely argue that AGOA has hit American jobs. When such pressure does arise, Trump would be likely to take an aggressive stance on the legislation.
“Trump’s pledge to bring jobs back to America spells bad news for Asia, the world’s primary manufacturing hub. If the new president reels back US commercial and strategic interests in the region, expect China to grab the opportunity to shore up its position as chief power broker.”
- Guo Yu, Head of Asia Research
Analysis: The biggest source of tension between Beijing and Washington under Trump will be bilateral trade. The imposition of punitive trade tariffs would hurt Chinese exporters, particularly in the electronics sector, and it will likely result in tit-for-tat trade barriers being imposed by Beijing.
Trump has consistently argued that Japan should shoulder more of the costs for its national security. Should the US scale back its military presence in Japan, Tokyo would need to increase defence spending to compensate, which would expand its chronic budget deficit even further.
Most significantly, Trump’s victory signals the death knell of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is not something Japan wants to see. The TPP was projected to boost Japan’s GDP by 2.7% by 2030.
“Even if Trump turns out to be a more moderate president than candidate, his ‘America first’ stance will be a massive headache for European leaders. At a time when the EU is engulfed in multiple crises, it has lost trust in its most steadfast international ally and the region’s leaders will need to prepare for the US to change from a vital partner to a problem to be managed.”
- Florian Otto, Head of Europe Research
Analysis: Prospects for concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU were already extremely poor, but in light of Trump’s anti-trade platform, the deal stands virtually no chance of being agreed.
In the UK, Brexiters will take heart from the victory of another anti-establishment figure. However, the available evidence shows that Trump has been consistent in his opposition to free trade. His political sympathies for Brexit are therefore unlikely to lead him to prioritise a trade agreement with the UK once the country leaves the EU.
Trump’s success will embolden populist anti-establishment parties across Europe, particularly the French Front National, which also seeks to upend French politics when the country elects a new president in April/May 2017. While the shock victory will strengthen the FN’s confidence, it also holds the potential to mobilise the support of centrist parties should Trump’s presidency get off to a chaotic start.
“The relationship with Latin America will be highly unpredictable, but the fact that the region does not pose a geopolitical threat to the US means it will not gain prominence under the next administration. However, a spike in US protectionism will hit the main regional economies and could help fan a resurgence in nationalist, anti-American sentiment ahead of key elections in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.”
- Jimena Blanco, Head of Latin America Research
Analysis: Mexico has the most to lose if Trump acts on his promise to pull out of the NAFTA agreement, as such a move would kill its export based economy. However, putting an end to NAFTA would be unpalatable for US exporters and intense lobbying by US companies may moderate Trump’s stance on this issue.
If he implements his campaign promise, Trump will use the Republican majority in both houses of Congress to undo the liberalisation of Cuba relations spearheaded by Obama. However, the majority of Americans are in favour of ending the embargo. In the best case scenario, Trump will make a concession to non-Cuban-American public opinion and maintain the current status quo.
The revision of trade relations and bilateral agreements with commercial partners could affect Brazilian exporters, for whom the US is the second largest destination market. Indeed, Trump has mentioned Brazil as one of the countries he believes has benefitted from commercial arrangements he deems unjust.
“The reality of a Trump presidency will be met with near universal alarm across the Middle East. Aside from the very real threat to the nuclear agreement with Iran, the most immediate impact will be a reinforced sense of fear among US allies that the country is disengaging from the region and their interests.”
- Torbjorn Soltvedt, Head of MENA Research
Analysis: While the end of the Obama presidency has been a welcome prospect in most Gulf capitals, the reality of a Trump rather than Clinton presidency will only reinforce existing fears. This is despite Trump’s strong criticism of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers and the very real threat to the deal’s integrity from January 2017 onward.
More broadly, Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the US will put relations between the US and most of the MENA region on the worst possible footing. Trump’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a wildcard, with the next US president declaring himself ‘neutral’ on the issue. Ultimately, however, foreign policy – particularly in the Middle East – is very unlikely to be among Trump’s key priorities.
One possible exception will be the fight against Islamic State. A lot will depend on the success of ongoing operations against the group during the rest of 2017, but closer coordination between the US and Russia is a likely outcome next year. While this could place the group under greater pressure, an aggressive US-Russian operation also risks polarising the conflict in Syria and Iraq further.
“Trump’s distinct lack of policy specifics and free-wheeling campaign style suggests that domestic policy may not veer as dramatically to the right as his critics fear. The degree to which a Trump White House marches in lockstep with Congressional Republicans who favour tax and regulatory deregulation will be closely watched by investors.”
Arun Pillai-Essex, Americas Analyst
Analysis: With Republican control over the executive and legislative branches, key GOP policy concerns will be prioritised. The main legislative concerns for the Trump administration will range from tax and entitlement reform to the deregulation of heavy and extractives industries.
To address the demands of his core support base suggests that infrastructure spending will increase significantly. An industrial strategy to support moribund industries, particularly coal, will also be on the cards.
A rise in commercial protectionism will result in an unpredictable business environment for US-based companies, threatening the integrity of current supply chains and deterring investors looking to expand operations in the US.
Global economic impacts
“Trump might turn out to be a double-edged sword for global growth. Although his preference for policy easing will help to stimulate the world’s largest economy, any wider benefits could easily be undermined if his aggressive protectionist rhetoric is backed up by action.”
Michael Henderson, Lead Economist
Analysis: If Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on trade and protectionism is backed up by action this could have a domino effect on commerce around the world.
The potential for trade disputes with large partners, such as Mexico or China, poses a risk of disruption to global supply chains, which would weigh on corporate profits, trade and global economic activity.
Over a longer time horizon, Trump’s policies might also threaten America’s standing as the global financial hegemon – and hence the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. The surge in gold prices following the US election results suggests that investors may already be hedging their bets by seeking out other (non-US) safe-haven assets.
“Tackling climate change was already a tough ask before the US elected a man who appears to believe it’s all a hoax. But physics hasn’t changed overnight, global ambition remains unaltered: this isn’t the death knell for environmentalism it’s been made out to be.”
- Will Nichols, Senior Analyst – Environment and Climate Change
Analysis: Just days after the Paris Agreement on climate change came into force, the election of Donald Trump is a nightmare scenario for those wanting to advance the world’s decarbonisation pathway. A Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to stand in the way of his plans to strip back domestic environmental regulation and pull out of the agreement.
However, the falling cost of renewable technologies makes green investments more economically viable with each passing year. These cost savings may prevent such investments being dropped in the absence of federal support. States and cities such as California and New York City are likely to continue to pursue strong carbon reduction policies regardless.
If the US reverts to a more carbon heavy energy mix, China, India, and other nations have less of an incentive to cut their emissions, which in turn brings forward the risk of dangerous climate change outcomes. Filthy air, rising seas and ongoing droughts may prove a sufficient call to action for these nations, but there will be glum faces at the COP22 summit in Morocco.
Human rights concerns
“We are expecting to see restrictions on the reproductive rights of women and the labour rights of migrant workers. The real test will be on the ability of human rights groups and lobbyists to stand up to policies that seek to pare back fundamental rights.”
- Michelle Carpenter, Human Rights Analyst
Analysis: In the immediate term, the biggest concerns relate not to what Trump might do in office, but rather to the consequences of the tensions stirred up by what has been by any measure an extremely bitter and divisive campaign. There is a danger that his victory could embolden extreme elements on the right who have already been energised by his incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail, leading to an increase in aggression and violence targeting groups such as Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics, and members of the LGBT community. On the other end of the political spectrum, we may also see acts of aggression by left-wing activists against Trump’s supporters and other actors on the right.
It is highly likely within the first 100 days of his presidency Trump will issue an executive order prohibiting U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that perform abortions. This would have an effect on women around the world who depend on services that come from US aid. With a Republican controlled house and senate, Trump may also pass new legislation that restricts abortion access for women in the US.
Trump has said that he would strongly consider appointing judges to overturn the marriage equality ruling. There is the possibility that the Supreme Court could reverse the same sex marriage decision at the federal level. This would leave the issue of marriage equality to the individual states and may result in reduced protections for same sex couples.
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