Trump for President?
You’ve heard the news. Donald Trump is running for office.
There’s a lot of negativity. The Mexican Foreign Secretary has said Trump is “ignorant” and “prejudiced”. Even Cher, the music icon, took time to send out a few words on Twitter, saying Trump’s ego is “so inflated”.
Whether you are for or against Donald Trump running for President, Trump made some important points in his announcement speech. In fact, anyone watching carefully (and objectively) would have noticed that majority of his speech touched on foreign policy more than anything else.
Here are the important foreign policy points that he touched on:
Chinese Currency Manipulation
Although China’s GDP growth fell to its lowest level in 24 years in 2014 (7.4%), China is still the largest trading nation in the world and its power continues to grow.
It is building highways, railways, power plants, oil pipelines, roads and towns throughout Africa. It is signing mammoth energy deals with Russia, loaning credit to South America (i.e. Venezuela) and even sending its own military to evacuate Chinese nationals in Yemen.
As China’s clout grows, currency manipulation will become an even bigger problem and Trump is right to bring it up. China keeping its currency de-valued allows its exports to be cheaper than most exporters, including the United States. In a report by the Federal Reserve, between 1995–2011, China increased the “number of detailed products it exports to the US” by 2000x.
Cheaper exports will matter more in the coming years as China continues to grow and challenge the established order, eating into the business muscle that American corporations have around the world. One strategy China is adopting is to transition from manufacturing to other sectors like technology and services, fueling domestic titans like Alibaba, Huawei and Xiaomi.
With a cheaper Yuan, these companies can export their products for significantly cheaper than their Western (or Asian counterparts). For example, a Xiaomi Mi 4 smartphone (with a 13 megapixel camera) sells for a little over US$235 in India. An Apple iPhone 6 (16gb) costs US$693, almost three times as much.
If Fortune 100 companies can’t compete on price with Chinese companies, how can SMEs or private businesses? Trump’s statements shouldn’t be misinterpreted. He doesn’t hate China, he just wants a level playing field.
Remember when people looked back on the 2012 Election and realized that a lot of what Mitt Romney said about foreign policy was coming true?
In 2004, Trump wrote an article for Reuters.
A lot of what Trump said came true. Take this statement:
“Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country?”
“C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.”
If you have read Seymour Hirsch’s latest article on Osama Bin Laden, you might also enjoy Trump’s comments from the same Reuters article:
“Tell me, how is it possible that we can’t find a guy [Bin Laden] who’s six-foot-six and supposedly needs a dialysis machine? Can you explain that one to me?”
Iraq (and by extension Syria) is in shambles. ISIS/ISIL has emerged, not only threatening both Iraq and Syria, but the entire world as foreign soldiers return home with extremist ideologies. Their latest claim: they will have a nuclear weapon in 12-months.
The problem is, there really isn’t any strategy to deal with them.
The only way is to pour large amounts of resources, get a global consortium of countries who are involved beyond air strikes and hammer down on digital channels as well as back-migration. But, the leadership for such a strategy doesn’t exist — anywhere.
While Trump didn’t directly ask it, the questions are clear:
Is this sustainable?
What are we going to do about ISIS?
When will a real strategy be created and executed?
Iran and China (again)
Trump also touched on Iran and his belief that the current team of negotiators is not doing the greatest job. The results so far from the negotiations seem to echo Trump’s words.
Already, Iran has rejected transparency measures. And, President Rouhani has said that the deal will only work if sanctions are lifted off Iran the same day Iran accepts the agreement with P5+1.
Prior to announcing, Trump spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit, where he touched on similar points.
When talking about China at the Freedom Summit (beyond currency manipulation), Trump spoke about China succeeding in gaining control of resources in Afghanistan while American troops try to keep the country together.
In this instance, Trump talked less about economics and more about geopolitics.
There is well over 12-months before the election in 2016. And, Trump has only just announced. The importance of his speech however should not be overlooked, because it is both an insight and a playbook.
Insight: In his announcement speech, Trump could have talked about anything, from fueling even more innovation in the United States, pursuing new solutions for diseases like Cancer and AIDS or intensifying efforts with climate change.
Instead, he chose to speak about foreign policy, with the only other topics being the state of the economy and support for soldiers and veterans. It’s clear which areas he believes are most important.
Playbook: Every few decades, foreign policy defines the outcome of an election in a certain part of the world. In 2016, for the United States, foreign policy will weigh heavily if not be the defining factor of the election.
If Trump sticks to foreign policy and doesn’t steer too much in different directions, his entire campaign will be stronger. Foreign policy can be to Trump what fixing the economy was to Obama.
Trump does face many challenges.
He needs to drop his PR team and hire an organization that is more in touch with women, millennials and minorities. He needs to start giving specific examples of what he will do in regards to challenges that the United States faces, both at home and abroad.
Above all, he needs to distance himself from what the mainstream media has made him out to be and create a new persona for his campaign.
But, as for pushing foreign policy, from where I am sitting, Donald Trump is winning that race.
Abishur Prakash | Geopolitical Strategist