Sunday, July 9, 2017
19 to 1 or 194 to 1
The United States has some very legitimate and currently official common interests with the rest of the world. Stabilizing the Middle East, the war on terrorism, containing nuclear/WMD proliferation and containing the rogue Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea to name just a few. The Trump administration has redefined his “America First” mission (see my June 5th “America First” – A Phrase with a Very Dark Past for a detailed analysis of exactly where that phrase came from and what too many people think it means) to say that this does not mean “America alone.” Unfortunately, that is neither how we are perceived by most of the result of the world nor our reality.
Whether we undermine our support of our treaty commitments to mutual defense (e.g., NATO) by suggesting that those nations who do not contribute enough in our opinion may or may not receive our support when they are attacked. Particularly when that challenge might come from Donald Trump’s “new special friend,” Vladimir Putin. Like the United Nations, where we object both to the amount of our spending as well as certain policies promulgated by our religious right (birth control, abortion, sex education, etc.)… even knowing that millions of civilians of every age (lots and lots of children) depend on U.N. aid for living-saving food, medical treatment and physical safety.
We demand respect and support even as we are slicing and dicing our foreign aid budget to poor countries that need humanitarian aid desperately, while we are selling increasingly sophisticated military equipment to rich regimes that use this power to decimate challenges to their rule. Meanwhile, the world-powers reaching to replace both our influence and de facto global leadership (by reason of our military and economic size) step in as we depart with replacement foreign aid. Russia but mostly China.
Not surprisingly, where China steps in, global alliances and benefits shift to them at our expense. As we continue to suggest that we will build a wall with Mexico, making them “pay for it,” and looking to slap new tariffs on their exports to the U.S., China is sending an under-the-table message to Mexico that they will replace what they lose in this battle with their northern neighbor.
But as we seek to force the rest of the world to do what we want them to do – dump or limit the Paris climate change accord, follow our military agenda without question and renegotiate trade alliances – what we are seeing increasingly is a world, perhaps even willing to risk triggering another global recession, that is pushing back. Like it or not, our true allies are fewer than at any time in recent history. Europe is girding for military resistance to Russian expansionism without U.S. assistance. Even Japan and South Korea are beginning to realize that China just might a more reliable ally than the equivocating United States.
The recent American-embarrassment at the Hamburg G-20 summit is clear evidence of our increasing isolation and loss of global influence. Even as the side-show-that-stole-the-limelight Putin-Trump meeting resulted in Putin’s statement, not denied by Trump, that Trump accepts that Russia did not meddle in our last election. The stated new U.S.-Russian joint cyber taskforce sent chills of fear through our intelligence agencies.
At the summit, Donald Trump suggested that a slight change in the all-voluntary Paris accord might make a difference to the U.S. position – “to use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently” – was rejected out-of-hand by the remaining G-20 group, all nineteen of them. Germany’s Angela Merkel – now taking the “tip of the spear” position in European Union opposition to Trump nationalist “America First” agenda – made it abundantly clearly that “fossil fuel usage” would never be part of the accord and that the overall language was not up for renegotiation. With 194 signatory nations opposing the U.S. attempt to water down that accord, the only reality that emerged was how completely out-of-step the United States is with the rest of the world. They are all going on without us.
Swinging hard using our global economic supremacy, Trump made it clear that what he perceives as trade imbalance would have to fall, that global trade treaties would need to change if the U.S. were to continue living with them. His message largely fell on deaf and resistant ears. Or bored yawns. The protests outside of the summit event venues were much more violent than in past years. It was very clear to global politicians that accommodating Trump’s “America First” agenda in any way, shape or form, was a ticket to losing their next election.
Trump’s wild global unpopularity was rewarding global elected leaders with a new and obvious platform to enhance their chances of reelection: resist Trump! And by definition, that simply further isolates the entire United States and moves individual U.S. states and large municipalities to try and stem the hemorrhaging by taking meetings with and making anti-Trump commitments directly to foreign leaders. On climate change. On immigration. On trade.
Primarily intended as a trade conference, the G-20 struggled to produce a unified communique, but schisms – extending the troubling May G-7 meeting results – were painfully obvious: “After two days of cordial smiles, [awkward] handshakes and back-slapping, Trump expressed satisfaction with the summit. Even so, he was alone among leaders of the world’s major economic powers in dissenting from its resolution affirming the Paris climate accord. And while he has threatened to abandon existing trade deals and penalize countries for what he sees as unfair trade practices, particularly on steel exports, the summit’s closing declaration affirmed support for open markets and fighting protectionism.
“After the more exclusive Group of 7 summit in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had described the meeting as ‘six against one’ — the one being the United States. As she closed the G-20 gathering that she hosted this week, Merkel again singled out the United States.
“In a news conference, Merkel said she ‘deplores’ America’s decision to walk away from the Paris climate agreement and, despite Trump’s comments, does not believe the administration is open to renegotiating the terms agreed to among more than 190 nations to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Merkel, as she has before, called on European countries to step into the vacuum that Trump is leaving on the world stage… ‘We as Europeans have to take our fate into our own hands,’ she said… The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, who will host Trump next week [7/14] in Paris to mark Bastille Day, echoed his ally Merkel. ‘The world has never been so divided,’ he said…
“Trump and the other leaders of the G-20, whose member nations represent roughly 80% of the world’s economic output, signed off on a joint statement that was seen as an accomplishment given the sharp differences.
“‘We have a G-20 communique, not a G-19 communique,’ said one EU official after all-night negotiations to finesse the divisions. But the language on climate change, at least, made plain that the statement was in fact a G-19 communique, with the U.S. alone in opposition.
“‘They’re calling the statement that they reached a consensus outcome, but it very explicitly points to a deep divide that really undermines the principle of consensus,’ said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington and a former Treasury official in the Obama administration.
“The declaration’s message on trade was ambiguous, reflecting the ‘heavy hand of the Trump administration,’ said Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, chief executive of the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva…
“Trump wanted stricter language that allowed countries to punish unfair trade practices. But other leaders would not agree… ‘We were able to say, well, markets need to be kept open. This is all about fighting protectionism and also unfair trade practices,’ Merkel said.
“Other European officials warned the United States was flirting with trade wars… European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday [7/7] the EU would retaliate swiftly if the U.S. raised trade barriers. ‘We will respond with countermeasures if need be, hoping that this is not actually necessary,’ Juncker said, citing American whiskey as one potential target for import taxes.
“Trump was not the only leader at the summit to complain that China is dumping cheap steel into the global market, and the countries commissioned a study on the steel market to be delivered in August.” Los Angeles Times, July 9th. Leader?
Of Trump’s post-summit, self-declared G-20 “triumph, Harvard professor [David Gergen appeared] “on CNN, saying that ‘this is the first time I've seen a president come to a G-20 meeting in which he's no longer regarded as the leader, no longer regarded as the world leader.’… Gergen followed up the comment by saying, ‘Europe is going its own separate way. Japan just signed this big trade agreement with Europe. That is troubling.’” AOL.com, July 9th. The United States is alone again – unnaturally. We have lost even more influence and credibility. We are sliding downwards… fast. When entire nations make points with their electorate by opposing what Trump wants, what does that mean for most of us here in the good old U.S.A.? Tired of wining yet?
I’m Peter Dekom, and if Donald Trump does trigger further isolation, particularly if he provokes a tariff-driven trade war, we will all suffer in a major deterioration in our economic well-being… losing good jobs, affordable goods/services and free travel.