Double Standards as Norm, particularly in Trump’s America First


February 11, 2018

Double Standards as Norm, particularly in Trump’s America First

by Bunn Nagara@www.thestar.com.my

Many countries can do a lot better than look to the rich and powerful among them which observe only the law of the jungle.

IN an ideal world, rich and powerful countries are righteous, gracious, confident and patient – possibly even wise and generous. It is about national character, particularly after having achieved an estimable rank. It is also about setting a good example to lesser nations that may one day also become rich and powerful.

In the real world however, self-righteousness just about substitutes all. Such unpalatable truths are seldom standard-fare in political science classrooms.

Image result for trump and the ostrichThe World according to Donald Trump but America is in a political gridlock as another Government shutdown looms large.
 
 It is not necessary to be cynical, or to subscribe to the cynical doctrine of neo-realism, to make honest observations approximating to cynicism. But it takes resolve. What is needed is an assessment of world affairs as they are and not as they should be. It will require a frank appraisal without fear or favour, or undue international relations theory.

After emerging as a world power in the late 1880s, the US grew into a global superpower by 1945. Britain and the Soviet Union were the other superpowers.

The British Empire was the most extensive in spanning the globe. Nonetheless the cost of two world wars had consigned it to advanced terminal decline, and the 1956 Suez Crisis ended Britain’s superpower status conclusively.

The US was clearly the world’s leading superpower, with the Soviet Union soldiering on in a distant second place. The Soviet economy bore inherent flaws that would soon prove fatal.

In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, its economy in tatters as it imploded into its several components. Since then the US became the world’s sole superpower, with the unchallenged capacity to project global power on multiple levels: economic, cultural, technological, political, diplomatic and military.

For nearly three whole decades the US dominated these spheres like no other country, perpetuating its dominance in each and seldom according to formal expectations of its international obligations.

With a deeply ideological polity, the US adheres to the constant mantra of “free markets” – in theory. This means a stated commitment to the notion of keeping private industry and the “public” state separate and distinct, a supposed adherence to laissez-faire free enterprise without state intervention.

And so trade battles raged between the US and Japan when the Japanese economy was the world’s second-largest with the prospect of becoming larger. Japan with its state-supported industrial policy and “closed” keiretsu system was said to be trading unfairly.

Today, the US is accusing China of unfair trade. China, now the world’s second-largest economy with the promise of going further, also has its version of industrial policy and public-private partnership.

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A cooperative partnership between state and industry is common to the rapidly growing economies of East Asia. It is a generic feature of the Newly Industrialising Economies (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) even if they were individually too small to be accused of “unfair trade.”

Yet when it suited the US, it would happily intervene with tariffs of its own. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff stands as a historic monument to state intervention by raising taxes on more than 20,000 imports, being among the most severe protectionist measures restricting US trade in a century.

The US Congress has even applied protectionist measures against parts of the country. The 1828 Tariff of Abominations imposed even higher taxes than Smoot-Hawley, aimed at the southern states and harmed their economy.

For a whole decade from the 1970s to the 1980s, the UN laboured on a set of rules and conventions for better order and safety on the high seas.

In later years more negotiations over the details for amendments followed. The US insisted on certain changes, and those changes were made.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force in 1994, and since then more than 160 countries around the world have ratified it. But until today the US still refuses to do so.

President Bill Clinton signed UNCLOS but Congress blocked it. Since then nobody in Washington has made a serious effort to push for ratification. Some US officials say that by not ratifying the treaty the US is able to observe it as and when it pleases, and that should be good enough. For other countries, that violates the spirit of law and makes a mockery of acceding to international treaties.

When Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency he vowed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Soon after taking office he did just that.

Those who favour the TPP blame Trump, but the decision was bipartisan. In the final stages of his presidency Barack Obama did nothing for the TPP.

More tellingly, Hillary Clinton herself rejected the TPP in her campaign. As Secretary of State she was the TPP’s most ardent champion, being resolutely for it before she was firmly against it.

No serious candidate in the 2016 US presidential campaign favoured the TPP since an election season meant they had to champion their own national interests. Other countries have signed on to it with all its obligations and restrictions, while the US is left free to do as it pleases again.

For years, the US has been pressuring foreign tax havens like the Swiss banking community to release details of confidential client accounts. US pressure also focused on the Swiss government, supposedly to help US authorities trace possible terrorist financing, but it is more than that.

With East Asian economies on the rise, typically a cash-rich China, US authorities worry about outflows of US funds to evade taxes. Swiss bankers however say their foreign clients have secret accounts more for security than tax evasion purposes.

In recent years Swiss bankers have pressed their foreign clients to divulge details of their accounts to their own governments while systematically closing undeclared accounts. A result has been an outflow of funds from these accounts by clients seeking alternative havens.

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Like his comrade  Donald Trump, Malaysia’s Najib Razak is lying too. He is practices double standards. Good Governance in reverse.

The US introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in 2010, requiring financial services companies abroad to provide details of accounts held by US citizens to US tax authorities.

For its part, the US has rejected the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard in providing details of foreign offshore accounts in US tax havens. A result: an inflow of funds from offshore accounts elsewhere, with a spike anticipated this year.

In East Asia the leading tax havens for offshore accounts are Hong Kong and Singapore, NIEs that have diversified well from the industrial sector. China itself is joining in on the mainland, but its offshore banking potential is still limited and underdeveloped.

Meanwhile US tax havens are racing ahead, reaping fresh dividends of new accounts once held in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Panama, BVI and Switzerland itself. US bankers say their clients seek security rather than to evade taxes.

Where some set profitable examples, others are certain to follow. But double standards and rash laws can be counter-productive, exposing a country as a deceitful, self-seeking, double-dealing hypocrite – and worse.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff led to the Great Depression; protectionism is still protectionism even if it is claimed to “make America great again.” Reneging on a commitment to UNCLOS is emboldening China’s claim to the South China Sea, for which the US has no answer. It should not require an ideal world just to make the rule of law ensure due justice.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Post-Davos Depression


February 4, 2018

Post-Davos Depression

by Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz@www.project-syndicate. org

The CEOs of Davos were euphoric this year about the return to growth, strong profits, and soaring executive compensation. Economists reminded them that this growth is not sustainable, and has never been inclusive; but in a world where greed is always good, such arguments have little impact

..,the lessons of history are clear. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. And one of the key reasons why our environment is in such a precarious condition is that corporations have not, on their own, lived up to their social responsibilities. Without effective regulations and a real price to pay for polluting, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that they will behave differently than they have..–Joseph E. Stigltz

DAVOS – I’ve been attending the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland – where the so-called global elite convenes to discuss the world’s problems – since 1995. Never have I come away more dispirited than I have this year.

Image result for The Economic Elites at Davos 2018Demonstrators in Zurich this week. While many are poised to recoil at President Trump’s arrival in Davos this week, much of the moneyed elite there are willing to overlook what they portray as the president’s rhetorical foibles in favor of the additional wealth he has delivered to their coffers. Credit Ennio Leanza/European Pressphoto Agency.

 

The world is plagued by almost intractable problems. Inequality is surging, especially in the advanced economies. The digital revolution, despite its potential, also carries serious risks for privacy, security, jobs, and democracy – challenges that are compounded by the rising monopoly power of a few American and Chinese data giants, including Facebook and Google. Climate change amounts to an existential threat to the entire global economy as we know it.

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Perhaps more disheartening than such problems, however, are the responses. To be sure, here at Davos, CEOs from around the world begin most of their speeches by affirming the importance of values. Their activities, they proclaim, are aimed not just at maximizing profits for shareholders, but also at creating a better future for their workers, the communities in which they work, and the world more generally. They may even pay lip service to the risks posed by climate change and inequality.

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But, by the end of their speeches this year, any remaining illusion about the values motivating Davos CEOs was shattered. The risk that these CEOs seemed most concerned about is the populist backlash against the kind of globalization that they have shaped – and from which they have benefited immensely.

Not surprisingly, these economic elites barely grasp the extent to which this system has failed large swaths of the population in Europe and the United States, leaving most households’ real incomes stagnant and causing labor’s share of income to decline substantially. In the US, life expectancy has declined for the second year in a row; among those with only a high school education, the decline has been underway for much longer.

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Justin Trudeau of Canada and Narendra Modi of India–The Globaists at Davos 2018 who together with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macton of France and China’s Xi Jinping will make America First’s Donald Trump irrelevant.

Not one of the US CEOs whose speech I heard (or heard about) mentioned the bigotry, misogyny, or racism of US President Donald Trump, who was present at the event. Not one mentioned the relentless stream of ignorant statements, outright lies, and impetuous actions that have eroded the standing of the US president – and thus of the US – in the world. None mentioned the abandonment of systems for ascertaining truth, and of truth itself.

Indeed, none of America’s corporate titans mentioned the administration’s reductions in funding for science, so important for strengthening the US economy’s comparative advantage and supporting gains in Americans’ standard of living. None mentioned the Trump administration’s rejection of international institutions, either, or the attacks on the domestic media and judiciary – which amounts to an assault on the system of checks and balances that underpins US democracy.

No, the CEOs at Davos were licking their lips at the tax legislation that Trump and congressional Republicans recently pushed through, which will deliver hundreds of billions of dollars to large corporations and the wealthy people who own and run them – people like Trump himself. They are unperturbed by the fact that the same legislation will, when it is fully implemented, lead to an increase in taxes for the majority of the middle class – a group whose fortunes have been in decline for the last 30 years or so.

Even in their narrowly materialistic world, where growth matters above all else, the Trump tax legislation should not be celebrated. After all, it lowers taxes on real-estate speculation – an activity that has produced sustainable prosperity nowhere, but has contributed to rising inequality everywhere.

The legislation also imposes a tax on universities like Harvard and Princeton – sources of numerous important ideas and innovations – and will lead to lower local-level public expenditure in parts of the country that have thrived, precisely because they have made public investments in education and infrastructure. The Trump administration is clearly willing to ignore the obvious fact that, in the twenty-first century, success actually demands more investment in education

For the CEOs of Davos, it seems that tax cuts for the rich and their corporations, along with deregulation, is the answer to every country’s problems. Trickle-down economics, they claim, will ensure that, ultimately, the entire population benefits economically. And the CEOs’ good hearts are apparently all that is needed to ensure that the environment is protected, even without relevant regulations.

Yet the lessons of history are clear. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. And one of the key reasons why our environment is in such a precarious condition is that corporations have not, on their own, lived up to their social responsibilities. Without effective regulations and a real price to pay for polluting, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that they will behave differently than they have.

The Davos CEOs were euphoric about the return to growth, about their soaring profits and compensation. Economists reminded them that this growth is not sustainable, and has never been inclusive. But such arguments have little impact in a world where materialism is king.

So forget the platitudes about values that CEOs recite in the opening paragraphs of their speeches. They may lack the candor of Michael Douglas’s character in the 1987 movie Wall Street, but the message hasn’t changed: “Greed is good.” What depresses me is that, though the message is obviously false, so many in power believe it to be true.

Trump’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2018 and beyond


January 29, 2018

Trump’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2018 and beyond

by Sheila A Smith, CFR

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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“The central role given to US economic priorities is striking, with an emphasis on renegotiating trade agreements and on reducing the country’s trade deficit.”–Sheila A Smith

On 18 December 2017, Trump’s National Security Strategy offered the first glimpse of his translation of ‘America First’ rhetoric into policy priorities. The central role given to US economic priorities is striking, with an emphasis on renegotiating trade agreements and on reducing the country’s trade deficit. But the actual practice of Trump’s approach to Asia — while differing in rhetoric from the previous administration — suggests the possibility of continuity rather than change.

 

In his first year in office, Trump was largely reactive rather than proactive with respect to world affairs. Washington’s response to Pyongyang’s growing missile threat is to bolster allied defences and extended deterrence while it builds a coalition of international pressure on the regime to return to the negotiating table. UN economic sanctions (via the United Nations itself as well as via a growing appetite for secondary sanctions) are the primary mechanism of coercion. Kim Jong-un seems determined to be able to strike the continental United States, so the North Korea problem remains at the top of the Trump administration’s priority list.

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The Harry S. Truman Department of State Building, near The George Washington University’s Lloyd Hartman Eliot School of International Affairs, Washington D.C.

The administration is woefully understaffed for the challenges that face the United States. The President’s tweets confound efforts to communicate policy, and the White House’s protracted effort to undermine the Secretary of State ensures that US diplomacy is weak. The administration has been slow to make appointments to high-level foreign policy posts, with the notable exception of the Department of Defense. The lack of expertise on the complex array of foreign policy challenges confronting Washington has left the administration painfully ill-prepared for diplomacy.

2018 will bring some of these difficulties into sharper relief. While the National Security Strategy was the first step towards steadying the administration’s foreign policy, filling out the government ranks of foreign and security policy professionals would go a long way.

Politics will likely obstruct focused diplomacy. The Republican Party is no longer a predictable, internationalist advocate for US foreign policy. The splintering of the Republican Party and leadership challenges for the Democratic Party make midterm elections in 2018 difficult to predict. One thing is sure: these elections will stir querulous political currents once more and keep Trump focused on his popularity at home.

Three foreign policy issues will confront the Trump administration in its second year. First, Washington’s trade policy will create dissonance between the United States and virtually all of its partners (particularly in Asia). While some US pushback on Chinese trade practices is welcome, a tit-for-tat trade war is not. The National Security Strategy takes a harder tack on US China policy — particularly on Beijing’s economic practices — which sets the stage for confrontation.

This alongside the ongoing difficulties in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations suggests that 2018 will bring trade to the forefront of US foreign policy. Many US allies are already girding themselves for a far stronger push by Washington to reopen existing agreements and to insist on new bilateral trade agreements on terms more favourable to the United States. As Trump’s trip to Asia in November revealed, the President wants to play hardball on trade — even with allies.

The second problem is North Korea — a problem that is likely to worsen in 2018. Sooner or later, some sort of showdown between the United States and North Korea is inevitable. Pyongyang continues its missile development, and the probability that one or both sides will use some sort of military force continues to be relatively high. With little evidence that Kim Jong-un is interested in abandoning his nuclear ambitions, regional fears over potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula will remain. Maintaining international support for sanctions on North Korea will require constant diplomatic effort.

A third challenge for the Trump administration is its relationship with Russia. The Mueller investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin has expanded to cover several of Trump’s campaign advisors, while congressional committee investigations will continue into 2018. The United States will need to put in place new measures to protect its elections from manipulation from Moscow by the midterm elections. Contrary to early expectations that the President would pursue friendlier relations with Russia, the National Security Strategy now clearly identifies Moscow as hostile to US security interests — a point that drew ire from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Within the United States, the daily news cycle surrounding the administration’s difficulties is overwhelming. Lost in the drama is a serious debate over policy choices that will have long-term consequences not only for priorities at home, but also for Washington’s landscape abroad. Trump has withdrawn the United States from defining multilateral initiatives on trade and climate change. He has threatened partners into reassessing their economic ties with the United States. While advocating for a bulkier military presence abroad, he has yet to embrace the most important foreign policy tool of all: diplomacy.

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69th Secretary of State–Rex Tillerson

While much of the Trump administration’s first year difficulties can be attributed to the President’s inexperience, 2018 will bring far higher expectations of his leadership and ability to demonstrate that his vision for the United States brings results. The honeymoon phase of his presidency is now over. All eyes will be on Trump as he navigates a complex world increasingly challenging to US interests.

Sheila A Smith is Senior Fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.

Commentary: Global takeaways from Trump’s Davos Speech


January 27, 2018

Commentary: Global takeaways from Trump’s Davos Speech

 by John Lloyd

“When people are forgotten the world becomes fractured,” President Donald Trump observed to the Davos forum in his breathlessly-awaited speech Friday. That he himself was the fracturer-in-chief must have entered the minds of more than a few in the crowded hall.

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President Donald J. Trump–The American First Salesman

Many expected the speech to be a clash of civilizations: that of America First, the pursuit of national advantage, the raising of the barriers both to trade and to immigration – and that of cooperation, a lowering of borders and barriers, a privileging of free trade and – at least until recently – free movement of labor. Along with that, there was a zany, unpredictable often deeply unpleasant governing style, based heavily on tweets, and a hatred of news media – which in a post-speech Q-and-A he could not refrain from branding as “nasty, vicious…and fake.” (He got a few hisses and boos for that.)

But the speech was crafted for a kind of virtual togetherness, a merging of “America first” with everybody else as partners. America was certainly first, and Trump said he had put it there: the stock market had added $7 trillion, 2.4 million new jobs had been created and U.S. unemployment was at a new low “since my election.” This was good for everyone. And for many of the attendees there, they are part of the everyone. The top part, in the past, present and future.

Not surprising. The world economy is growing. The giants are growing especially rapidly, with India, at over 7 percent in 2017, growing faster than China, at 6.9 percent. Trump can tweet with delight: the International Monetary Fund, not a friend, says that his tax cuts approved by Congress last month will likely cause businesses to invest more, create more jobs. Most boats are raised by this tide – even perhaps, a little, poor old Britain, suffering side effects of Brexit before it’s got to the exit, growing by only 1.8 per cent in 2017 but forecast by a government treasury minister to do better than the 1.6 percent this year that several forecasts claim.

Trump did not hint at the widespread skepticism that this can last. William White, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s review board, said that “all the market indicators right now look very similar to what we saw before the Lehman crisis, but the lesson has somehow been forgotten.” Even if that can be disregarded, many of those in Davos this past week spoke as much about reforms and shifts in attitudes and troubles ahead as of growth.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi defends Globalisation

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s Managing Director, though happy about improvement, warned of a social disaster even while economies grow, saying that, in Europe, “working-age people, especially the young, are falling behind. Without action, a generation may never be able to recover.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a somber speech, arguing that “it feels like the opposite of globalization is happening…(it) cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.”

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IMF’s Managing Director, Christine Lagarde

Still more chillingly, Freedom House, the U.S.-based institute which surveys the progress of democracy, civil society, freedom of speech and the media round the world has produced a report headlined “Democracy in Crisis” – a grim reportage showing that democracy’s “basic tenets – including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law – came under attack around the world.”

The new element in this from last time Freedom House looked is Trump and his radically anti-globalization, anti -free trade, anti-immigrant  rhetoric. The U.S. president’s actions have been milder – or thwarted – than his words, but even as he told Davos delegates that “America First does not mean America alone,” he stressed that he was taking steps to secure an immigration system “stuck in the past.”

Trump’s approach has fazed foreign political and business leaders and called into question some of the fundamentals of the Western world’s post-war assumptions – not least, that the United States was on the globalizers’ side.

Image result for WEF puts on a show for TrumpThe WEF puts on a show to butter up the egoistical President Donald J. Trump

The top people, bankers, industrialists, politicians, celebrities – the U.S. President is an unusual exception – are avatars of globalization. But the politicians among them mix with and solicit votes from ordinary people, who live their lives locally rather than globally and who are – in David Goodhart’s analysis – “somewhere” people as against the “anywhere” globalizers. The politicians know that in order to retain globalization and the benefits which flow from it, the “somewhere” people must share more in the fruits of globalization than they presently do. Unless that happens, the angry challenge to mainstream politics, to free markets and to capitalism itself will continue, grow and may become ungovernable.

Trump has made it clear in the past he despises the Davos crowd: his erstwhile friend and chief counselor, Steve Bannon, now out of the White House and presumably no longer on the President’s speed dial, has said that “I’d rather be governed by the first hundred people at a Trump rally than by the Party of Davos,” continuing, in the same interview, to note that blue-collar workers like his father and grandfather, were “more decent, and have the community’s well-being more than these guys.”

There was none of that disdain for the white-collar executives in Trump’s carefully-crafted Davos speech. Instead, the U.S. president touted his tax changes and the message the “there’s never been a better time to do business in America.”

However, globalization is a political as much as an economic movement, and in the end requires political support. The globalizers need at least the passive assent from those like the left-behinds, the somewheres, the people who have not done well out of the past decade since the financial crash and who will do much worse should the forecasts by experts like White and Lagarde prove well-founded. Every democratic leader must now be consumed with fear of a revolt, seeking policies which address that discontent and calms it, while trying to avoid even more debt on the nation’s balance sheet.

That’s a difficult trick – and one that democratic leaders must turn to now that the febrile anticipation of Trump’s speech is over and they descend from the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps.

John Lloyd co-founded the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, where he is senior research fellow. Lloyd has written several books, including “What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics” and “Journalism in an Age of Terror”. He is also a contributing editor at the Financial Times and the founder of FT Magazine.

The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.

President Donald Trump at WEF in Davos, Switzerland


January 26, 2018

President Donald Trump at WEF in Davos, Switzerland

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/26/full-text-trump-davos-speech-transcript-370861

The following is the speech President Donald Trump delivered at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland on January. 26, 2018.

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I believe in America. As President of the United States I will always put America first just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first also. But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe and the drive for excellence, creativity, and innovation in the U.S. Has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and far healthier lives.–President Donald J Trump

 

It’s a privilege to be here at this forum an business and science diplomacy and people from world affairs gathered for many, many years to discuss how we can to advance prosperity and peace. I’m here to represent the interests of the America people and affirm America’s friendship and partnership in building a better world.

Like all nations represented at this great forum, America hopes for a future which everyone can prosper and every child can grow up free from violence, poverty, and fear. Over the past year, we have made extraordinary strides in the U.S. We’re lifting up forgotten communities, creating exciting new opportunities, and helping every American find their path to the American dream. The dream of a great job, a safe home and a better life for their children.

After years stagnation the nights is once again experiencing strong economic growth. The stock market is smashing one record after another, and has added more than $7 trillion in new wealth since my election. Consumer confidence, business confidence, and manufacturing confidence are the highest that they have been in many decades.

Since my election we’ve created 2.4 million jobs and that number is going up very, very substantially. Small business optimism is at an all-time high. New unemployment claims are near the lowest we’ve seen in almost half a century. African-American unemployment reached the lowest rate ever recorded in the United States and so has unemployment among Hispanic-Americans.

The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America. I’m here to deliver a simple message. There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business and we are competitive once again. The American economy is by far the largest in the world and we’ve just enacted the most significant tax cuts and reform in American history. We’ve massively cut taxes for the middle class, and small businesses to let working families keep more of their hard earned money.

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We lowered our corporate tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. As a result, millions of workers have received tax cut bonuses from their employers in amounts as large as $3,000. The tax cut bill is expected to raise the average American’s household income by more than $4,000. The world’s largest company, apple, announced it plans to bring $245 billion in overseas profits home to America. Their total investment into the United States economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years. Now is the perfect time to bring your business, your jobs, and your investments to the United States.

This is especially true because we have undertaken the most extensively regulatory reduction ever conceived. Regulation is stealth taxation. The U.S. Like many other countries unelected bureaucrats, we have, believe me, we have them all over the place, and they have imposed crushing and anti-business and anti-worker regulations on our citizens with no vote, no legislative debate, and no real accountability. In America those days are over. I pledged to eliminate two unnecessary regulations for everyone new regulation. We have succeeded beyond our highest expectations. Instead of two for one, we have cut 22 burdensome regulations for everyone new rule. We are freeing our businesses and workers so they can thrive and flourish as never before. We are creating an environment that attracts capital, invites investment, and rewards production. America is the place to do business, so come to America where you can innovate, create and build.

I believe in America. As President of the United States I will always put America first just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first also. But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe and led the drive for excellence, creativity, and innovation in the U.S that has led to important discoveries to enable people everywhere to live more prosperous and far healthier lives.

As the United States pursues domestic reforms to unleash jobs and growth, we are also working to reform the international trading system so that it promotes broadly-shared prosperity and rewards to those who play by the rules. We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others. We support free trade but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal because in the end unfair trade undermines us all. The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies, and pervasive state-led economic planning.

These and other predatory behaviors are distorting the global markets and harming businesses and workers not just in the U.S. But around the globe. Just like we expect the leaders of other countries to protect their interests, as president of the United States, I will always protect the interests of our country, our companies, and our workers. We will enforce our trade laws and restore integrity to our trading system. Only by insisting on fair and reciprocal trade can we create a system that works not just for the U.S., but for all nations.

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As I have said, the United States is prepared to negotiate mutually beneficial, bilateral trade agreements with all countries. This will include the countries within TPP, which are very important. We have agreements with several of them already. We would consider negotiating with the rest either individually or perhaps as a group if it is in the interests of all. My administration is also taking swift action in other ways to restore American confidence and independent. We are lifting self-imposed restrictions on energy production to provide affordable power to our citizens and businesses and to promote energy security for our friend all around the world. No country should be held hostage to a single provider of energy. America is roaring back and now is the time to invest in the future of America.

We have dramatically cut taxes it make America competitive. We are eliminating burdensome regulations at a record pace. We are reforming the bureaucracy to make it lean, responsive and accountable and we are insuring our laws are enforced fairly. We have the best colleges and universities in the world and we have the best workers in the world. Energy is an abundant and affordable. There is never been a better time to do business in America. We are also making historic investments in the American military because we cannot have prosperity without security. To make the world safer from rogue regimes, terrorism and revisionist powers, we’re asking our friend and allies to invest in their own defenses and to meet their financial obligations. Our common security requires everyone to contribute their fair share.

My administration is proud to have led historic efforts at the united nations security council and all around the world to unite all civilized nations in our campaign of maximum pressure to de-nuke the Korean peninsula. We continue to call on partners to confront Iran’s support for terrorists and block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. We’re also working with allies and partners to destroy jihad it terrorist organizations such as ISIS and very successfully so. The nights is leading a very, very broad coalition to deny terrorists control of their territory and populations, to cut off their funding and to discredit their wicked ideology. I am pleased to the support that the coalition to defeat ISIS has retaken almost 100% of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria. There is still more fighting and worked to be done. And to consolidate our gains. We are committed to insuring that Afghanistan never again become as safe haven for terrorists who want to commit mass murder to our civilian populations.

I want to thank those nations represented here today that have joined in these crucial efforts. You are not just securing your own citizens but saving lives and restoring hope for millions and millions of people. When it comes to terrorism we will do whatever is necessary to protect our nation. We will defend our citizens and our borders. We are also securing our immigration system as a matter of both national and economic security. America is a cutting-edge economy but our immigration system is stuck in the past.

We must replace our current system of extended family chain migration with a merit-based system of admissions that selects new arrivals based on their ability to contribute to our economy, to support themselves financially, and to strengthen our country.

In rebuilding America we are also fully committed to developing our workforce. We are lifting people from dependence to Independence because we know the single-best anti-poverty program is a very simple and very beautiful paycheck. To be successful it is not enough to invest in our economy.

We must invest in our people. When people are forgotten the world becomes fractured. Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten can we create a bright future that is truly shared by all. The nation’s greatness is more than the sum of its production and a nation’s greatness is the sum of its citizens, the values, pride, love, devotion and character of the people who call that nation home.

From my first international G-7 Summit to the G-20, to the U.N. General Assembly, to APEC, to the World Trade Organization and today at the World Economic Forum my administration has not only been present but has driven our message that we are all stronger when free, sovereign nations cooperate towards shared goals and they cooperate toward shared dreams. Represented in this room are shared dreams.

Represented in this room are some of the remarkable citizens from all over the worlds. You are national leaders, business titans, industry giants and many of the brightest mind in many fields. Each of you has the power to change hearts transform lives and shape your country’s destinies. With this power comes an obligation however, a duty of loyalty to the people, workers, customers, who made you who you are.

Together let us resolve it use our power, our resources and our voices, not just for ourselves but for our people, to lift their burdens, to raise their hopes and to empower their dreams. To protect their families, their communities, their histories and their futures. That’s what we’re doing in America, and the results are totally unmistakable. It’s why new businesses and investment are flooding in. It’s why our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in so many decades. It’s why America’s future has negative been brighter.

Today, I am inviting all of you to become part of this incredible future we are building together. Thank you to our hosts, thank you to the leaders and innovators in the audience but most importantly, thank you, to all of the hard-working men and women who do their duty each and every day, making this a better world for everyone. Together let us send our love and our gratitude to make them because they really make our countries run. They make our countries great. Thank you and God bless you all. Thank you very much.

 

Vietnam’s Hopes dashed as Trump exits TPP


January 21, 2018

Vietnam’s Open Trade Policy Hopes dashed as Trump exits TPP

by Thomas Jandl, TJMR Asia Consulting

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Trump in Danang

After the 2016 election, hope remained in Hanoi that President Trump, once in office, would turn from firebrand protectionist campaigner into a leader who accepted the value of open trade — a cause in which the Vietnamese government had invested so much in preparation for Vietnam’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These hopes have given way to a hangover.

By now it is clear that Trump will govern as he campaigned: without long-term strategy and with little interest in any assessment of consequences. Not surprisingly, some 60 per cent of top US diplomats have resigned and key foreign policy positions remain unfilled. Clearly, Washington is in no position to chart a clear course for the United States’ key relationships around the world.

Vietnam’s carefully crafted policy of non-alignment — by which Hanoi has skilfully exploited big-power rivalries to balance economic and political interests — now requires a major update. During the APEC summit in Da Nang, Trump stood in front of the leaders of the foremost multilateral institution in the region and waxed about a free and open Indo-Pacific, at the same time heaping criticism on multilateralism. Trump offered bilateral deals to any takers but with the caveat that he wanted to see the United States ‘win’ what he considers a zero-sum game. That kind of deal is not likely to find many takers.

Unlike Trump, Xi Jinping has a plan to make China great again. Speaking at APEC after Trump, China’s President offered a vision of the shared benefits of a free-trading region. Vietnamese officials were smitten with Xi’s willingness to dispense with protocol during the APEC forum. In his speeches, with a wink at the United States, Xi offered a mutually beneficial deal in which trade and investment are not zero-sum games, and he assumed the leadership mantle on economic openness in Asia. While Trump adopts China’s earlier, failed approach of ramming bilateral trade deals down smaller countries’ throats one by one, Xi is on a charm offensive with a multilateralist agenda.

While China is clearly emerging as the leader of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, Vietnam may be a bright spot for Trump. Vietnamese diplomats hurry to say that Hanoi will pursue a bilateral deal with Washington, less for its economic gains than for its symbolic value. Vietnam’s US$32 billion trade surplus with the United States makes it vulnerable to a bad deal in Trump’s trade war. Yet Hanoi hopes to be able to appeal to Trump’s self-regard: if Vietnam is among the very few takers of Trump’s offer, then it may be rewarded simply for showing up and giving Trump something to gloat about. And then there is the symbolism of cooperating with Washington at the same time as Beijing aims for regional leadership.

Image result for Xi Jinping

But this strategy is fraught with risk. Any deal with Trump is bound to be fickle. If the Republican Party is trounced at the mid-term elections in November 2018, congressional leaders and the Trump administration could set out on very different courses. Moreover, with no long-term strategy, any shift in domestic mood — or in his personal mood — may turn Trump against Vietnam in no time.

Traditionally, Vietnam prefers multilateral venues where no one party calls the shots. That is why any bilateral talks with Washington must be seen as bargaining chips for RCEP and TPP-11, to which Vietnam remains strongly committed. Having as many friends as possible is an important bargaining chip for a country like Vietnam, that traditionally punches above its weight, especially with respect to its big northern neighbour whose hegemonic impulses and significant claims on Vietnamese waters are cause for concern.

TPP would have made it easier for Vietnam to escape China’s orbit. That ship has sailed, at least for now. In the meantime, Vietnam is trying to improve its bargaining power for a position within that China orbit. Whether any deal with Trump is useful — or credible — is the risky bet Hanoi is now forced to make.

Thomas Jandl is a founding partner of TJMR Asia Consulting and a non-resident scholar at the Social Sciences and Humanities Department, Vietnam National University (VNU).

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.