This Is How President Trump’s Cabinet Choices Could Impact On Australia – Forbes

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New research from The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney suggests that Trump’s cabinet choices could have a significant impact on relations between Asian states, possibly leaving Australia in a precarious position.  The study, conducted by Research Fellow Ashley Townshend, claims that the appointment choices — including Asia hawk and free-trade critic Peter Navarro — advocates an era of protectionism and could prioritize economic issues over security policy in Asia. 

What’s more, the impact of Trump’s cabinet choices are already apparent in the region.

According to Townshend, there are several decisions made and suggested by Trump’s Asia team, made in the area of trade, that are not in Australia’s interests, could potentially have a knock-on effect and end up impacting other areas of international relations. 

Namely, security which is based on the strength of collaborative economic ties in the region. 

Partnership Back Down

Union leaders applaud US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations  (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

One of the most poignant challenges to the equilibrium of U.S. and APAC relations has been President Donald Trump’s signing of executive orders, in late January, that withdrew America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP — which included 12 Pacific Rim countries — had an aim to create a free trade zone among member states that would strengthen economic ties through the slashing of tariffs and the fostering of trade – a welcome change for some of Asia’s stagnating economies.

It was a sticking point for not only Trump, who was quite vocal about derailing the TPP throughout his campaign trail, but for Navarro, who has blamed China’s “unfair trade practices” for eroding the global economy. 

“The cancellation of the TPP is a slap in the face for countries like Australia, Japan and others in Asia, which fought difficult domestic battles to get the agreement into shape and were looking to the broader strategic pay-off this deal would provide the region,” Townshend says.

For America, the partnership — one of the cornerstones of President Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot to Asia” — was considered a means to reassert U.S. economic leadership over China in a region that accounted for approximately more than half of the global GDP.

“Specifically, the deal was designed to bind the region around a high standards trading agreement that may, in time, have forced China to also adhere to better trade, workplace, IP, and environmental practices than it currently prefers one it prefers,” Townshend says. 

For Australia, as claimed by Townshend, the TPP would have created the sort of Asian trading network that Australia has wanted for some time.

“Australia is a genuine supporter of free trade and liberal trade regimes, and stood to gain from the further liberalization of trade policy in Asia, along with the market access that it would have provided,” he says. 

Withdrawal from the TPP has left Australia in a precarious position. The TPP would have allowed the United States and its like-minded allies to set the rules for trade in Asia in the 21st century and disallow China to set the parameters. Now, with no deal in place, China will be given the opportunity to potentially create a similar deal with its neighbors and further exert its influence over the region – on its terms. 

Jobs Over ‘Bad Deals’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and US President Donald Trump speak at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 11, 2017. (Photo credit Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images).

Trump garnered much support during his campaign trail by promoting the creation of jobs on American soil, in lieu of what he refers to as “bad deals.” In particular, he has expressed concern over China who he maintains is “entangled in a plot to vacuum up American jobs and sprinkle them across China.” 

Since then, the President moved quickly to create the White House National Trade Council (NTC), with Navarro as Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy –  a position that, in the words of Townsend will, “advise the president on innovative strategies in trade negotiations” and “coordinate with other agencies” on trade initiatives, such as the “Buy America, Hire America” program. 

“Donald Trump, in many ways, has sold his supporters a lie when he told them that he can bring jobs back,” he says. “He has claimed that globalization is the reason Americans have lost their jobs, when in reality a lot is down to automation and global production networks – not the Chinese.”

Be that as it may, President Trump has already begun defining his international relationships based on the principle of job creation influenced by the protectionist aspirations of Navarro. Most recently, with long-time ally, Japan. Their meeting last week resulted with Prime Minister Shizo Abe reportedly pledging to help create U.S. jobs with a package that, as claimed by Reuters, could generate 700,000 U.S. jobs and help create a (US) $450 billion market.

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