January 24, 2017
The geopolitics of Trump
The noise level during and after the Trump inauguration is so massive that his critics are doing themselves no favours because they are in danger of losing focus. We saw exactly the same after the Brexit referendum, which left the Remain campaign in such a shock that they have been unable to muster a coherent and unified opposition to the British government - which might have consisted an immediate call for Britain to enter the EEA. Instead, some chose to advocate a second referendum while others became fascinated by various have-your-cake-and-eat-it-scenarios. Some are still in campaign mode.
While we can get all very excited about the meaning of "alternative facts" and other Trumpian outrages, the real big issue of the first week of the Trump presidency is the decision to revoke TPP. Cecilia Malmström made the point that Trump never mentioned TTIP, which is formally correct. But if he pulls the plug on a treaty already negotiated, there will be no TTIP. We doubt that there will be another free-trade treaty over the next ten years. Ceta is as good as it gets for the trade liberalisers, for now.
In the context of Trump’s decision on TPP yesterday, we noted a story this morning according to which Australia wants to revive TPP with China as a replacement to the US. The Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had talked with Shinzo Abe and the PMs of New Zealand and Singapore about whether China could be included. Some of the aspects of the treaty would have to be renegotiated.
The FT, meanwhile, reports that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has now managed to recruit 25 countries from Africa, Europe and South America, which shows China's determination to push its own global political agenda. Ireland is one of the European countries to join this year.
And in another article, the FT writes that the White House threatened that it would prevent China from accessing artificial islands on international waters in the South China Sea.
If you combine all these stories, it is not hard to see the potential for a major geo-strategic conflict between the US and China. Given the current mood in the EU about Trump it is possible, indeed likely, that the EU may politically align with China in this conflict - so we may be looking at a new geostrategic axis: US/Russia vs EU/China.
And finally we noted a brave commentary by Christopher Caldwell, who writes in the FT that Trump’s critics should stop hyperventilating about his inauguration speech. It turns out he actually meant all those things he said in the campaign.
“There is nothing especially radical about Mr Trump’s diagnosis of globalisation, except that he seems sincere about it. Every western politician of the past 20 years, from Hillary Clinton to Helmut Kohl to Jeremy Corbyn, has bemoaned that it leaves people behind. But they did not understand that the New Economy was a new economy. It involved phasing out every aspect of the old economy, including its personnel. The theorists of the New Economy said it should be possible to compensate the “losers”. But that never happened. Because when the money came in, the people who managed the new economy did not recognise the losers as belonging to the same community.”