Contrasts in frontrunners’ foreign, environment and trade policies offer markedly different outcomes for all.

One version of the future has Hillary Clinton as US President, Helen Clark as UN Secretary General, and David Cameron still governing a Britain folded into Europe.

An alternative version has Donald Trump as President, Kevin Rudd as Secretary General, and Boris Johnson driving Britain away from an imploding Europe.

Although all three races are captivating, the most important is for the presidency of the most powerful country on Earth.

The critical issue is not the entertainment value of each candidate clawing the other on questions of integrity and character, but how each of them would set their foreign policy.


These choices have implications for all of us.

In terms of skill sets for the job, Hillary Clinton is almost over-qualified. She has served as secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady of the United States.

Conversely, Donald Trump has no political experience. Although a country is not the same as a company, and driving one takes a very different skill set to driving the other, a wise leader of either would choose the best advisers to support them. They would not set foreign policy alone.

On environmental matters, Trump does not believe human-induced climate change is real. Clinton recognises it as one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.

In terms of competing superpowers, Clinton is antagonistic towards both China and Russia. She argues the United States and Nato need to ramp up efforts to support the Ukraine.

She is at the forefront of constructing a regional coalition that denies China's claims to territorial expansion via their island-building campaign. She supports Britain being in the European Union.

Trump does not support Britain being in the European Union. Unlike the lack of love between Clinton and Putin, there is an attraction between Trump and the President of Russia.

This may be because Trump is tired of America being what he sees as the unpaid police officer on global watch. Trump sees the Ukraine as a European problem. He believes that Nato may be obsolete.

He sees China's island-building and territorial claims as problems for Asia to deal with. Defending South Korea and Japan from North Korea is primarily their problem, not his.

These countries should either fend for themselves, or pay the United States to stand next to them. He is fine with a proliferation of nuclear weapons in some instances to help with their defence.

In the war on terror, Clinton supports the use of targeted drone strikes. She is an advocate for the war in Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan and the interventionist push into Libya.

She has expressed herself willing to arm Syrian rebels, and believes the United States should take in at least 65,000 refugees.

Trump would not arm the rebels. He is willing to get the laws changed to allow certain techniques currently classified as torture to be reclassified to help in the fight against Isis.

He would accept some refugees on humanitarian grounds but expects the Gulf countries to do much more. Similarly, Trump has threatened Saudi Arabia that unless it gets boots on the ground in the fight against Isis, the American purchase of Saudi oil could stop.

Although Clinton is trying to distance herself from the TPP, her fingerprints are over all of the recent trade deals that Trump despises.

Clinton, despite being no fan of Saudi's policies, has not gone this far. Nor has she gone anywhere close to Trump's call for a complete moratorium of Muslims entering the United States, until a clear strategy can be developed.

The final significant difference is over trade. Trump is aware that over six million manufacturing jobs have been lost in his country over the past 15 years.

Trump does not see technological innovation, changing workforces and rapidly evolving markets as the problems.

Rather, he blames illegal immigration (which he will solve with mass deportations and large walls) and bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements with countries like Mexico and China that allow them to sell products in America that are cheaper than what American workers can produce. He does not like the TPP or its European cousin, the TTIP.

Clinton is different. Although she is trying to distance herself from the TPP, her fingerprints are over all of the recent trade deals that Trump despises.

At heart, she supports a liberal and globalising economy with universal standards, such as workers' rights, at its core. She understands the broader benefits that a managed globalisation may bring the United States.

If Clinton wins, it can be expected that she will roll with the status quo on trade. If Trump wins, expect trade wars to begin as he attempts to untangle 25 years of economic integration in his surge towards isolationism.

Alexander Gillespie is a professor of law at Waikato University.