What were people really expecting from President Trump’s speech to the World Economic Forum on Friday? For some it was an apology, for others it would have simply been a more conciliatory approach. He gave neither.
President Trump instead boasted of America’s greatness, told the gathered delegates that when the US economy grew so did the rest of the world and, to drive the point home, reiterated his America First policy.
Mr Trump said as President he would “always put America first” but that didn’t have to mean America Alone. He added: “When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe."
President Trump also derided what he saw as unfair trade agreements, claiming free trade must mean free trade, and adding that the US would no longer turn a blind eye to unfair trade practices.
Then he said America was “open for business and we are competitive once again".
Where does this leave businesses that might want to trade with the US? In a slightly confused state.
On the one hand the President says his country is open for business but at the same time claims other countries are getting a free ride off the US economy.
You only have to take one look at the tariffs the US imposes on certain imports to know this is nonsense.
The opposite of free trade
The President’s America First policy appears to be the exact opposite of free trade and the rest of the world knows it. Little wonder then that the delegates at the World Economic Forum gave him a lukewarm reception.
And while President Trump’s claim that the US has created jobs around the world is certainly true, the quality of those jobs can sometimes be questionable.
So, if you are a business wanting to invest in the US, should you? Given the President’s aversion to reciprocal trade relationships, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), and his America First policy, perhaps it would be unwise.
Clearly businesses are being invited to do so but the President’s pitch was ultimately a bit of a bust.
President Trump may be no fan of globalisation but it’s here and there’s nothing really that he can do about it. Businesses have many more options these days. If it’s too much like hard work to operate under the isolationist economic policies of the current White House, they won’t, it’s as simple as that. That’s the point of global free trade after all. You’d think the self-styled king of the deal would realise that.
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