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Major economic trends in international trade, globalization and automation were strongly reflected in the November 8th election of President Donald Trump. They also were underlining factors in the United Kingdom’s June 23rd decision to withdraw from the European Union, known as Brexit, and in support of populist politicians in Europe. Why is this?
Trade frictions are nothing new to the U.S.-China relationship. Over the years they’ve ebbed and flowed, but were managed with enough deft to avoid major meltdowns. That seems likely to change under President Donald Trump, an economic nationalist who sees trade as a zero-sum game and the United States emerging “the winner” of a trade war with China.
President Donald Trump is pushing all the right buttons when it comes to an economic agenda for his administration: eliminate excessive regulations, reduce corporate taxes, repeal Obamacare, pursue a sane energy policy, and fix immigration. But what is puzzling is that Trump has expressed some opinions about trade that are troubling.
What countries are the most and least miserable? In what follows, I update my annual Misery Index calculations. A Misery Index was first constructed by economist Art Okun as a way to provide President Lyndon Johnson with a snapshot of the economy.
If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, where will President Trump turn when his “America First” policies lay waste to the very people he professes to be helping? The ideas conjured by “Buy American” may appeal to many of President Trump’s supporters, but the phrase is merely a euphemism for doling political spoils, featherbedding, and protectionism.
Obama recently ended a decades old policy that allowed escapees from Communist Cuba to enter the United States without a visa. Known as “wet feet, dry feet,” it allowed Cubans who showed up at America’s borders to enter lawfully and earn an expedited green card. Cuba’s brutal Communist dictatorship, proximity to the United States, and history were the reasons for this relative openness. Obama sent a clear message to Cubans seeking freedom: stay away.
It wasn’t long ago that Germany’s Angela Merkel was anointed as the last defender of liberal Western values. She was even expected to hold America’s Donald Trump to account. But that vision died with her announcement that she supported prohibiting Muslim women from wearing a “full veil” face covering.
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump made some very confrontational statements on trade. He called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the “rape of our country.” He suggested renegotiating, or even withdrawing from, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And he accused China and Mexico, among others, of “cheating” the U.S. in trade.
Last week, President-elect Trump card his distaste for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and made withdrawal of the United States from the agreement a “Day One” priority. Although the move would hearten many of Trump’s supporters, history would judge it as folly — with a capital “F.”
President-elect Donald Trump appears focused on domestic policy. He wants to rebuild infrastructure, cut taxes, reduce imports, save jobs, streamline regulation and more. While he seems to have strong views on international issues, he seems to lack “nuance.” He won’t be able to escape foreign controversies, but he could avoid creating his own.
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