Judging from what he has said publicly in recent months, Trump wants to take a step back from some of America’s major trade, climate, and political commitments with the rest of the world. He probably won’t be able to do it all, even if he controls both houses of Congress, but he will owe it to his base to move in that direction.
“Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” Trump said in his July 21 acceptance speech as party nominee at the Republican National Convention. He said then that “the most important difference” between his plan and that of his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, was that “our plan will put America first.”
On immigration, Trump is unlikely to make a serious effort to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It’s too costly and would raise too many legal issues.
Rather, Trump is likely to increase deportations, which already reached record numbers under President Barack Obama, and publicize them more than his predecessor. Trump may also terminate or scale down Obama’s executive action to give temporary visas to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as infants.
On his proposal to build a wall along the entire US-Mexican border, Trump will probably expand the existing wall, and talk a lot about that. But he won’t get Congress to give him anywhere near the $12 billion to $25 billion that would be needed to complete it.
He will probably ask for the funds, and then blame Congress for the next four years for not authorizing them. Besides, Trump will need to avoid a nationalist backlash in Mexico, which could result in Mexico electing leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the 2018 elections.
On trade, Trump has threatened to withdraw from or renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. But it will be hard for him to renegotiate NAFTA, because Mexico and Canada will oppose it, and his own Republican Party lawmakers are not likely to approve a unilateral US withdrawal.
His proposed 35 per cent tariff on Mexican imports would mean that the price of a Mexico-assembled Ford Fusion car bought in the United States would go up from $24,000 to $32,000. I doubt Trump will want that to see that happen to US consumers. More likely, he will impose some import fees to appease his anti-trade supporters.
On the other hand, Trump’s victory will most likely kill President Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal between the United States and 11 Asian and Latin American countries, as well as Obama’s proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.
On climate change, Trump has said he does not believe in human-caused climate change, and has promised to cancel the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by Obama with nearly 200 countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions. While Trump cannot withdraw from that deal in the short term, he will probably drag his feet in implementing it, possibly driving China and India to do the same.
Where I see the biggest impact of Trump’s nationalist populism will be in the areas of nation-building, human rights and democracy.
Trump has suggested that he will try to improve US ties with autocrats such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, despite Putin’s horrible human rights record. “I don’t think we have a right to lecture” other countries, Trump told The New York Times on June 20.
My opinion: Trump’s nationalist populism, alongside Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union, seems to be leading us to a less globalized, more fragmented world. We are likely to see a lesser US effort to strike diplomatic alliances with like-minded democratic countries, and a US retrenchment from its role as a global champion of democracy and human rights.
Yes, we should give Trump a chance to succeed before criticizing him. But some of us will remain nervous about the possibility that his “America first” credo will lead to isolationism, and to a dangerous era of short-sighted unilateralism.