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Trump’s populist triumph will sharpen global political and economic divides

Guests watch a television broadcast of President-elect Donald Trump as he gives his acceptance speech, during an election night event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia. © Photo: Boris Grdanoski/AP/SIPA

The shock win of property magnate Donald Trump in the United States presidential elections today is the latest and most important win for right-wing populists at a time of deepening global instability. Usually cautious foreign policy analysts in Western capitals now talk about the break up of the liberal democratic order and an American retreat into trade protectionism and diplomatic isolationism.

For the rest of the world it signals the biggest reversal in US backing for multilateral institutions and trade liberalisation for 50 years. Within minutes of the announcement of Trump’s victory, Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to Washington, tweeted: “The world is coming apart before our eyes.”

Trump’s campaign promises to cut US contributions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and encourage Japan and South Korea to build up nuclear arsenals now look like serious reality. It could mean a US withdrawal and ceding a zone of control to China, its strategic rival. It will doubtless shake regional alliances in the Pacific.

China

China’s President Xi Jinping and his central committee will have to review their military and commercial strategies. Already hit by slowing global trade levels, China faces the prospect of Trump’s nationalist trade policies sharply cutting back US imports of Chinese manufactures.

As in the 2008 financial crisis, falling US imports will sharply cut Chinese demand for natural resources from Africa, Asia and Latin America. That means global commodity prices could fall even further in the current bull market.

Middle East

Equally, Trump’s criticisms of US military cooperation with the Iraqi government’s offensive against the Islamic State rebels’ occupation of Mosul looks set to roil the Middle East. Likewise, Trump’s demands that the US pulls out of the internationally agreed anti-nuclear deal with Iran would unpick more than a decade of tortuous negotiations and raise tensions again.

Trump’s threats to pull the US out of the World Trade Organisation could deal a final blow to multilateral trade deals.

Read the rest of this article on The Africa Report, a publication of Groupe Jeune Afrique.

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