Alexander Gillespie: Trump policies will reverberate

As President and with Republican control of the Congress, Donald Trump (shaking hands with his chief of staff, Reince Priebus) will have immense power. Photo / AP
As President and with Republican control of the Congress, Donald Trump (shaking hands with his chief of staff, Reince Priebus) will have immense power. Photo / AP

• Alexander Gillespie is a professor of law at Waikato University.

To imagine what the Trump presidency means for those outside America, think Brexit, times ten. With full control of Congress, the new President will have very few constitutional checks and balances holding him back.

Republicans in their now stacked Congress who did not support their President risk being purged from power if they stand in the way of his near absolute power or agenda, which may, or may not, be as radical as many fear. Doing away with Obamacare, building a wall on the border with Mexico and possibly locking up Hillary Clinton will fascinate but not wobble New Zealand.

Conversely, his wider economic, environmental and security policies may cause seismic waves through our country.

Trump's clear rejection of free trade will shock the world. He is likely to target existing trade agreements such as Nafta and will ensure the TPP will be stillborn. He has also threatened to withdraw from the WTO. This will worry a lot of countries, especially Mexico and China, who are highly dependent on their trade with the United States.

For New Zealand, although our bilateral trade relationship is likely to suffer, the bigger risk is with all the global economic chaos that will spill over if trade wars break out, especially outside of the rules of the WTO.

The upside is that it may catalyse the need for other free trade agreements that exclude the United States. If such agreements appear, it is very unlikely they will ever have the social and environmental protections Obama tried to get into the TPP.

If Trump walks away from the Paris agreement on climate change, which took 25 years to conclude, the regime will collapse. America is not only essential for the equitable division of responsibility among the superpowers who produce the most emissions, it is also the primary funder of the assistance for much of the developing world. New Zealand has been a laggard on climate change, and the collapse of this agreement, designed to face the largest anthropogenic environmental threat the Earth has ever faced, is unlikely to bother Wellington too much.

For security with countries which are established friends, Trump wants them to show the love. He wants all countries with American bases to pay for their visitors. All allies will be expected to spend at least 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

Without deeper economic commitments, he might disengage from Nato and similar relationships for Japan, South Korea and possibly the Philippines. This will not be a problem for Australia, but countries like New Zealand which, although drifting closer to the Obama orbit of defence alliances, will probably baulk at the costs and politics of getting closer to the United States and revert back to our earlier stances of an independent foreign policy.

The test in this part of the world will be around the disputes in the South and East China Sea. Given that Trump is about to dismantle international trade, environmental and security law, it is unlikely he is about to become the guardian of the international law of the sea. However, if the relationship with China goes bad, this could be the tipping point.

For countries which are not established friends, such as the Ukraine, Trump will probably walk away, turning a blind eye to Russian imperialism. This will be the first step to building a good relationship with Putin, which will be strengthened by working together over Syria, attacking Isis and radical Muslim groups.

He is very unlikely to support any of the 'middle-ground' anti-Assad rebels.

The help in Iraq will continue for a while, but as with Afghanistan, America is no longer in the business of "nation-building". It will be much easier to pick "strongmen" to keep troublesome populations in check.

If he pulls out of Iraq quickly after Isis is pummelled, New Zealand will not hang around either. Indirectly, the impact upon us will be that if failed states are not rebuilt, civil wars, terrorism and refugee flows will continue to pulse.

This pulse will get higher as domestic policies in the United States target Muslim groups, and the drawbridge which once welcomed the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free is gone.

- NZ Herald

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