Afraid new world
Convener ASEAN Australia Defence Postgraduate Scholarship Program
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When he did mention Asia, it was to threaten tariffs on Chinese imports, and less military support to Japan and South Korea. Southeast Asia was not mentioned. Therefore whatever we can say about the implications for a Trump presidency for the Asia Pacific must be based more on considering his foreign policy leanings and political position as a whole, rather than specific policy pronouncements.
On this front, we are still left with immense contradictions. For example, how does any government cut taxes, reduce debt and increase military spending, all of which Trump has pledged to do? That said, the overall impression is of a future where far more than for many decades, the Asia Pacific region will be left to solve its own problems. This will be a bracing prospect for all countries, frightening for some.
The Trump administration enters the Whitehouse with a big domestic agenda. The economic challenges that Trump has elected to pursue including tax reform, revitalising United States manufacturing and dismantling Obamacare, will require energy and effort. The fact the Republican Party will control both houses of Congress will enable the new President to fully apply himself to this program. Unlike Obama, Trump will not be forced onto the international arena because of Congressional gridlock.
Moreover, Trump’s mandate is much more about restoring the centrality of white middle America, through wage growth, employment and immigration policy, than it is about American global leadership. It seems then that foreign policy will be much more a second tier priority than in previous administrations.
This means whoever Trump nominates as Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State and Defense Secretary may be of greater than usual importance. It may be these individuals who carry the lion’s share of devising workable plans to implement Trump’s utterances on two items of tremendous global importance: trade and alliances. Both of these have been central to the global leadership the United States has exercised since the end of World War II.
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