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Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

United States: Has Trump’s protectionist policy made America great?

03.04.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
While running for Barack Obama's succession, Donald Trump campaigned on the principle of "America first", the ideology from which he derived his famous slogan, “Make America Great Again”. With that mythical phrase, the Republican candidate drew crowds and rekindled hope for a once again powerful America on the world stage. The American billionaire's project involved reviving the American economy at a time when countries like China are increasingly imposing their leadership on the world stage. From word to action, the Republican candidate upon election, adopted a protectionist trade policy and isolationism in his foreign policy that caused much fuss even within his own political family. As he seeks to renew his time at the White House, many economists argue that the 45th U.S. president's formula has greatly benefited his country's economy; at least in many areas before the dark chapter of the health crisis caused by COVID-19.

Satisfactory mid-term results

The economic measures adopted during the Trump Era soon began to bear fruit. By the time he reached halfway through his four-year term, Trump-led America was already enjoying some rather flattering economic indicators. It was on this satisfying note that President Trump surfed to beat the campaign in the mid-term elections for both houses of the U.S. Congress.

Jobs up and unemployment down

In November 2018, the United States had an unemployment rate of 3.7%, its lowest level in 18 years. With inflation under control, wages on the rise, and more job vacancies than the number of unemployed, the economic dynamism of the United States on the eve of the midterms was impressive. According to a research conducted at that time by the Conference Board, nearly 43% of respondents said that it is easier to find work in the United States. In the same vein, the Belgian information site www.rtbf.be  reveals that between 2018 and 2019, approximately 193,000 jobs were created by the American economy. 

A return to employment that is notoriously common among both whites and minorities (blacks, Hispanics). In his policy to boost employment, Donald Trump has benefited from the support of his daughter Ivanka Trump, an activist for a better integration of women in the labour market.

Increase in GDP 

US GDP in the last year of Barack Obama’s mandate was estimated at 1.5%, rising to 2.3% in the first year of Trump’s takeover. For Trump’s detractors, this flourishing economy is none other than the result of Barack Obama’s good policies, something the American billionaire rejects, claiming with fervor that he is the author of these economic indicators, which are the first of their kind in the history of the United States.

Donald Trump came to power on January 20, 2017, and as soon as he took office, he began to multiply presidential decrees in several areas including the environment. He is also the initiator of a series of tax reforms that have led to the reduction of corporate taxes (from 35% to 21%) and on the income of the wealthy. In the area of trade, the first two years of Trump’s governance have also resulted in significant progress, exports over this period increased by 9.3% and investments by 7.2%. The profile of the 45th US President, a billionaire in the business world, has also increased confidence on Wall Street. Trump at mid-term foiled the predictions of those who had not believed in him, notably the American economist Paul Krugman, who said that “if Trump is elected, the American economy will collapse, and the financial markets will never recover”.

Breakdowns in many international consensuses 

Regarding its international policy, Trump opted for the withdrawal of the United States by breaking numerous multilaterals, international and regional agreements. One of the most resounding is the climate agreement resulting from the Paris COP 21 signed in 2015 under the Obama era. When Trump surprised the world in 2017 by withdrawing his country from this climate agreement, he described it as “a disaster and a job killer that placed an unfair economic burden on the United States”. Signed under Obama’s presidency, the Paris agreement committed the United States, the second biggest polluter in the world after China, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In order to justify his position despite the criticism coming from everywhere, the current occupant of the White House recalled having been elected to represent the inhabitants of Pittsburg, not Paris. His decision was thus aimed primarily at protecting American domination and energy independence and fossil fuel jobs. At a press conference on October 24, 2019, in Pittsburgh on the subject of energy, Trump stated that “the excessive regulatory restrictions of the Paris Agreement would have resulted in the closure of many American energy firms in the United States while allowing foreign producers to pollute with impunity”.

In his plan to break international agreements aimed at preserving American interests, Donald Trump also decided to militate for US participation in UN peacekeeping operations and to suspend all US financial support for global abortion programs.  The billionaire’s thunderous foreign policy based on isolationism has also attacked the Atlantic Alliance, which he says is costing the United States a fortune. Arguing in an interview with the Washington Post that “the NATO concept is a good one,” he said he regretted that his country was forced to pay billions or even hundreds of billions of dollars to support other countries that are in theory richer than the United States. Therefore, he demanded that the distribution of costs be changed and that other NATO members increase their military spending. A grievance approved by the military alliance.

Donald Trump came to power at a time when the U.S. economy had already undergone some consolidation under his predecessor’s administration, which inherited a country in deep recession as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. But he must be given credit for allowing this growth to continue in order to produce results unprecedented in the economic history of the United States. In spite of the chaotic methods for which he has been blamed, he has managed to revive the American economy, even though his economic record a few months before the end of his first term is somewhat tarnished by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s protectionism, an inspiration for Africa

African countries can draw inspiration from Trump’s successful protectionist policy to better defend their interests in a global economic environment where they are increasingly coveted by major powers.  Although often criticized by the media, Donald Trump has admirers on the “Dark Continent” who appreciate the work he has done to get the U.S. economy back on track. Foremost among them is Ugandan President Youweri Museveni. At the height of the outcry over Trump’s claims of “shithole countries,” indexing Africa, Tahiti and El Salvador, Museveni said his American counterpart was “frank” with Africans.  “America has one of the best presidents of all time. Mr. Trump. I love Trump,” he said, adding, “I love Trump because he speaks frankly to Africans. I don’t know if he was misquoted or anything, but when he speaks, I love him because he speaks frankly…. If you look at Africa, Africa is 12 times the size of India, in terms of land area, a lot of resources, and its population is growing. Why can’t we make Africa strong?” 

The Agreement on the Continental African Free Trade Area (CAFTA), which could provide Africa with a market of more than 1.2 billion consumers, and the establishment of a single currency called ECO, which was sought by fifteen countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), are all proof that Africa is entering this new decade with the desire to pool its forces to better take control of its destiny, making the emancipation of its economy its priority.  

In its report Africa 2040 Vision For The Future, prepared following its meeting on 30 July 2019 in Berlin, Germany, the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation (AFRIC) argues that African countries still face enormous challenges in building their economies, which is why it is important for them to create a strong and independent common monetary policy framework if they are to strengthen investment on the continent.

 

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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