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Trump’s unintended consequences

Donald Trump’s brinkmanship could prove positive for the world?

Roughly two years ago, the world crumbled into despair in the wake of Trump’s victory in 2016 US Elections. Undoubtedly, populism and nationalism came into the US like an elephant in a China shop. What a change!

The most common feeling following the shocking Trump victory was incredulity. As many other politicians, Trump had been acting and lying during the campaign, the policies that he would carry out would be quite another thing. He is not building the wall, he is not stopping world trade. Moreover, both his own party and Democrats would stop any attempt in line with the Trump’s most radical narrative. The ‘check and balance’ US democratic system would ensure it. Even Barack Obama dared to foresee a change in Donald’s opinions after some experience in the administration and after receiving some advisory.

Be that as it may, the truth is that Donald Trump is carrying out many of the policies he promised during the campaign and he maintains its outspoken political style relentlessly. He swiftly withdrew from the Transpacific Partnership deal (TPP) and the negotiations from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal (TTIP). He also ordered to renegotiate NAFTA agreement. Many of this withdrawals were made through executive orders with immediate effect.

Financial markets received US President with open arms, in the hope that the fight against world trade had been a bluff and that he instead would revert some hefty regulations in the US, thereby bolstering US economy. The US dollar appreciated significantly and financial markets (equities rose steadily while bond yields continued discounting higher economic growth in the US). However, this initial euphory blurred by a number of reasons.

Trump sign an executive order withdrawing from the TPP.

Among these reasons, we can find US politics. The first mission of Donald Trump was to dismantle Obamacare. However, politics prevented him from carrying out his plans. This revealed a weaker than expected support in the US Senate and in the US House to Trump’s policies. It may well be that Trump’s policies may not be easily implemented. Financial markets were disappointed and the US dollar started to deflate.

Nonetheless, after the first political defeat, Trump was able to pass his budget and a number of other bills, but its political clout was damaged. Even more, its largely trumpeted tax reform was even weaker than the reduction in taxation during Obama. Another disappointment, the US dollar fell again. The lack of a strong political support coupled with a “hard Trump” (unable to reduce regulations and foster US economy but able to unnerve financial markets as he retired from trade deals). “Soft Trump” (significant reduction of taxes and maintenance of trade deals) proved to be an illusion.

But the fact that Donald was showing himself as “hard” was an illusion that Trump was intendedly building? None can know that, but it may well be, especially if we heed into the Trump’s political game consequences. I will explain that later. In the meantime, this “hard” version led to a decline in the US dollar (despite a buoyant economy and rising US interest rates) and to an increasing unpopularity of the President.

Having said that and going back to the question and the point of this article, currently we are seeing that many of the Trump’s actions are proving to be fruitful as they are improving the negotiation capabilities of the US and potentially it may have positive consequences for the US economy and even for the world trade. Although, admittedly, it is a real brinkmanship.

Recently, Trump imposed tariffs on the steel industry, which triggered a barrage of reactions all around the world. China’s reaction was to escalate on trade war, but finally, both China and the US accepted to maintain a negotiation and China offered to open its financial markets to the world (which is completely restricted to foreigners) in exchange for the end of the trade war with the US. Think again. If the US accepts, that may mean an increase in the world trade. Wow! The consequence of a trade war is more trade!

The trade spat with China was only an example, but Donald Trump is drawing on the huge bargaining power of USA to extract the most of it. His threats are real as he retires from negotiations, deals and agreements or impose tariffs or sign executive orders. Then, he seems to be expecting a reaction from which he can reap some benefits. Another example is being the case of North Korea, among others.

It is just a guessing that only can be proven with more time, but so far Trump is proving to be a real deal artist.