Global Economy

View: Good riddance to Trump but the real threat to world health, security is Xi Jinping


On January 20, Biden will be sworn in and Trump will join the ranks of former presidents like Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter–two of whom have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Many world leaders (especially those who felt intimidated by Trump’s abrasive style of functioning) will heave a sigh of relief, as will the 81 million Amerians who voted for Biden. However, the fact remains that 74 million Americans voted for Trump even if some now say they regret doing so in the light of the attack by a Trump mob on the Capitol (the building housing the national legislature, the Congress) in Washington DC.

Trump’s 2016 victory was due to the flaws in the North American Free Trade Agreement (negotiated during the presidency of the elder Bush and ratified during the tenure of Clinton) whereby manufacturing plants in the US found it far more profitable to relocate to Mexico where the labour costs were far cheaper. According to a 2011 report of the Economic Policy Institute, an estimated 682,900 jobs were lost, mostly in the US automotive industries in the Midwest. The NAFTA rationalists maintained that the process was worthwhile since it meant cheaper cars and other end-products for American consumers.

Until Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign, no one seemed to notice the angst of the sacked workers which was obscured by the figures signifying a growth in GDP and a trebling of trade within NAFTA. (During the 2016 referendum on Brexit when an audience in Newcastle was asked by Prof Anand Menon of King’s College London to imagine the plunge in GDP if the UK left the EU, a woman heckler shouted, “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours”.)

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The fact is that President Trump did negotiate a better trade deal with Canada and Mexico than Nafta from the USA’s and American workers’ point of view by increasing environmental and working regulations (40 to 45% of automobiles made in North America must now be from factories paying a minimum wage of $16 per hour) and by incentivizing domestic production of automobiles (from 62.5% of the vehicle-value as per the rules of origin to 75%).

However, all that has now been tarnished by the January 6 attack on the Capitol. In a fortnight, Trump will be gone and he deserves to go. However, he is far from being the only or real threat to global security even if he is the most loud-mouthed one. The biggest threat the world is facing is the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 90 million cases and two million deaths in 190 countries. The US is the biggest sufferer with almost 22 million cases and 370,000 deaths

The key question to be asked now is whether Trump’s successor will have the toughness to take on China, who, under Xi Jinping, allowed the coronavirus to spread worldwide from the wet market in Wuhan. Was it sheer coincidence that the contagious nature of Covid-19 was concealed in the initial stages in January-February 2020 and international flights from Wuhan allowed even while domestic travel from that city to other parts of China were banned?

There is even talk of the virus being manufactured in a research laboratory in Wuhan and then allowed to spread worldwide, either inadvertently or deliberately. Granted, there are any number of conspiracy theories but, in this case, the truth will never be known since a World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts has not been allowed by China to go ahead with its scheduled visit to study the origins of Covid-19. Simultaneously, intrepid Chinese investigative journalists like Zhang Zhan have been harassed and arrested for documenting the failure of the authorities in Wuhan to preempt the spread of Covid-19 as far back as February 2020.

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We must remember President Trump for the disgrace he brought upon himself by asking his mob of supporters at the January 6 rally to march towards the Capitol and forcibly attempt to stop the Vice President and the members of Congress from ratifying the presidential election.

On a more positive note, we could also remember the presidential candidate Trump by the speech he made at a rally in Michigan a few days before the general election of November 8, 2016. Speaking to a huge late-night crowd a few days after Hillary had addressed a rally where celebrities like the rapper Jay Z and the singer Beyonce had performed, Trump said, “Here I am. All alone. No Jay Z. No Beyonce. No guitar. She (Hillary) needs all that to get a crowd. All I need is for you to listen to me so that we can make America great again. Then, you will go home and, after a few hours of sleep, you will be back at work again. I know my people.”

As Mark Antony said in a funeral speech (immortalized by Shakespeare) for a would-be Roman emperor assassinated in 44 BC, “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.”

Trump need not even be the biggest threat to world peace insofar as 21st century American presidents go. Take Gulf War Two, which George W Bush launched in March 2003, to preempt the use by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the US and its allies like Israel. And so what if no trace of WMD was ever found by the US troops in Iraq.

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While the Americans maintain meticulous records of US troops killed or injured in Iraq (4,424 deaths and 31,952 wounded as of June 9, 2016), the statistics for Iraqi civilians killed vary widely. At the lower end, the classified Iraq War Logs reported 109,032 deaths between January 2004 and December 2009. At the higher end of the range is The Lancet survey (based on household data) which indicates 601,027 violent deaths between March 2003 to June 2006. The Opinion Research Bureau reports a civilian death toll of 1,033,000. The United Nations reported 34,452 violent deaths in just the one year of 2006.

What is even more significant is that 40% of Iraq’s middle class was estimated to have fled the country, with no intention of ever returning. By November 2006, the UN estimated that 1.8 million Iraqis had been displaced in neighbouring countries, and 1.6 million internally.

There is no need, of course, for any American president to be impeached for invading a distant Third World country called Iraq! “Words have consequences” is what Biden advised Trump the other day. Are there no consequences for deeds like waging an unnecessary and brutal war on a distant Third World country? Or can an American president get away with waging an unwarranted war on any country as long as he keeps saying the politically correct thing?





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