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Trump’s “might is right” views spell trouble post-Brexit

by Michael Prest | 25.07.2016

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for US president, has a habit of alarming Europeans. His recent musings on Nato have sent shivers down the spines of European countries, which feel Russia’s hot breath down their necks. Now he has gone one big step further. Speaking yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press he threatened to leave the World Trade Organisation if he, as president, cannot put tariffs on American companies who produce abroad for export to the US.

Trump’s comments, taken with other remarks about international agreements such as dismissing the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) as a “disaster”, reveal an instinct that is hostile to much more than the mechanics of particular agreements. He is rejecting the multilateralism which has been the basis of the world order since 1945 and was born from the catastrophes of the Great Depression and World War Two. His is a world in which might is right.

Multilateralism is already under fire from many quarters. China and Russia do not think the rules always apply to them. The EU is a version of multilateralism, an agreement democratic countries freely entered into, and the UK voted to reject it. The paradox – and possibly tragedy – is that in a Trump world of might is right the EU would have offered welcome protection for a medium-size nation such as the UK.

At the very least, a less stable and cooperative world order calls into question the free trade fantasies of some Brexiteers. A UK cast adrift on a 19th century free trade raft would be cruelly exposed to Trump’s 21st century protectionist starship. Being at the back of the queue to negotiate a trade deal with the US would be only the start of the UK’s problems.

Moreover, the UK was a founder – and until now a responsible pillar – of the multilateral order. If the UK turned its back on a system which has on the whole served the world well for the last 70 years it would imperil far more than itself.

Trump’s apparently cavalier disregard for Nato, the WTO and doubtless other pillars of multilateralism such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is a harsh new environment in which the UK has to try to forge a new deal with the EU.  It points unequivocally to the lightest possible Brexit. Trump may not be elected. But it would be most unwise to assume that someone else like him will not come onto the scene in a few years’ time in the US or that China and other countries will decide that multilateralism no longer serves their national interests.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Trump’s “might is right” views spell trouble post-Brexit”

  • I find Trump’s supporters to be more problematic, more confounding than Trump himself. Take away his support, and Trump will vanish like autumn leaves. Trump’s supporters befuddle me. Eight years ago, their top criticism of Obama was that he had no experience, was only a “community organizer.” So the Dems put up an unbelievably experienced candidate this time – and it’s portrayed as a weakness. She’s a “career politician.” Otherwise know as “what they wanted last time.” Their top criticism of HRC is that she was dishonest, she lied. But Trump lies over and over and over and over and his supporters seem not to mind at all. If they valued honesty, wouldn’t they demand it of their own candidate? “HRC is immoral, unethical” I hear. Yet Trump ran a fake university, cheated on his numerous wives, games the tax system, stiffs his employees, ships jobs out of America because “that’s smart business” and runs a fake foundation – and his supporters turn a blind eye to it all. If morals and ethics were what Trump’s fans valued, wouldn’t they demand that Trump display those values? So what is it that Trump’s supporters value? What do they adore about this dishonest, immoral, unethical man child? All I can come up with is that Trump makes the least savory Americans among us feel a lot better about just how unsavory they are. After all, if the nominee for President can think it, say it, do it, why can’t they as well? Trump has unleashed the beast, and the beast is his fans.