Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: The US election that has become all things to all people

Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is the legacy issue with which New Zealand has been closely involved with will be shelved by Trump. Photo / Supplied
Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is the legacy issue with which New Zealand has been closely involved with will be shelved by Trump. Photo / Supplied

John Key will see his old mate Barack Obama one last time before the US president hands the keys to the White House to Donald Trump.

On the sidelines of Apec in Peru next week, he and Key will meet 10 other Asia-Pacific leaders to talk about what happens next with TPP - or more to the point, what doesn't happen.

He will also have the chance to commiserate privately about this week's election result, which is as devastating for Obama's legacy as it was for Clinton personally.

A Clinton presidency would have been a dream result for New Zealand.

Not only was she intimately familiar with New Zealand, having been closely involved with healing the 20-year diplomatic rift, but several members of her would-be cabinet have close associations with New Zealand.

The Clinton Administration's policy on New Zealand would have been a seamless transition from the Obama policy, which was essentially close engagement across a wide front, but especially on trade.

Trump is not a quite a blank canvas - perhaps more like an inkblot Rorschach test where everyone is guessing at the shape and direction of his Administration.

The NZ Government has also maintained relations with Republicans but mostly of the variety that repudiated Trump.

House Speaker and vehement free trader Paul Ryan has good connections with New Zealand but his position may be in doubt having been so reluctant to back Trump.

Among those in the picture for Trump's Secretary of State is John Bolton, a famously undiplomatic former diplomat who represented the US at the United Nations and Senator Bob Corker, from Chattanooga, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee.

Whoever forms the cabinet, they will have the difficult job of plotting a path between Trump's simple promises and the complex reality of their consequences.

Among them is getting rid of Obamacare, which give access to health insurance to 20 million poor Americans. Republicans are drooling at the prospect of repealing it although they haven't worked out what to replace it with.

There are promises to scrap the Iran deal, which essentially rewards Iran for limiting its nuclear capabilities.

Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is the legacy issue with which New Zealand has been closely involved with will be shelved by Trump.

Even in the face of it being parked indefinitely, New Zealand is set to pass the implementing legislation next Tuesday (which would take effect only if it is ratified) in a symbolic move that New Zealand remains a champion of trade liberalization.

New Zealand can do so without the fears of a backlash similar to the US and Europe.

The Government may be vulnerable to campaigns over inequality and neglect of the regions but not over gobalisation and free trade.

Trump is not a quite a blank canvas - perhaps more like an inkblot Rorschach test where everyone is guessing at the shape and direction of his Administration.

Exports make up a far bigger proportion of New Zealand's GDP than they do in the US so there is a wide acceptance of its benefits here.

Most of the harm to jobs was done decades ago when the Fourth Labour Government liberalised the economy holus bolus.

The opposition to TPP in New Zealand is based more on sovereignty issues, which can be addressed, than over the concept of free trade itself, as it appears to be in the US.

And while Winston Peters is the closest thing New Zealand has to a Donald Trump in rhetoric, as the longest-serving MP and former Treasurer and Foreign Minister, he is hardly an outsider.

Even with the TPP shelved, it may be revived, renegotiated and renamed at a later time or it could form the basis of bilateral deal between New Zealand and the US.

It seems such a waste not to put it to some use.

The fact that the deal was not signed, sealed and delivered before the election campaign has been entirely the fault of the United States, which led the talks.

It was not clear at the outset about the sort of deal it wanted and amid its dithering, it allowed the content and its timetable to be dictated by Japan's glacial pace. Australia's bilateral deal with Japan in the midst of negotiations didn't help to achieve an ambitious deal for all.

It may have been better to negotiate a high quality deal among 11 countries and have Japan join later.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe en route to Apec will detour to New York next week to discuss security and trade with Trump.

In upstate New York, Hillary Clinton will be joining the rest of the world in trying to figure out what went so wrong for her.

In our readiness to accept the pollsters' predictions, not enough attention was paid to how hard that would be.

The fact is that since 1945 only one candidate from the same party as a two-term president has won, George H W Bush.

We were too willing to believe she would make history.

Perhaps in her low moments, she will take solace from the fact that she would have won the US presidency if it had been held in New Zealand where every vote counts (okay, perhaps not).

While her turnout was millions down on Barack Obama's last vote - and that was the killer - she won more votes than Donald Trump across the country.

In the defence of the media and pundits, Nate Silver of the fivethirtyeight.com has done a "what-if" exercise and drawn up a new Electoral College map on the basis of what would have happened if just one Trump voter in every 100 had switched to Clinton.

The result would have been an overwhelming victory to Clinton in the Electoral College.

The close vote is relevant as narratives about why she failed take root.

FBI James Comey can be accused of influencing the outcome.

Those who backed Bernie Sanders say Clinton was the wrong Democrat and that he could have beaten Trump.

Feminists see the result as an act of misogyny .

An unhappy Australian academic described it as a superpower going "white nationalist".

The enduring narrative is that Trump connected to those who feel left behind, especially working class white blokes.

Few put Trump's win down to him being a famous television celebrity who would say anything to get elected. But maybe that's the truth.

The reality is this election result has become all things to all people.​

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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