19
Apr
2017

Assessing Trump’s Decisions

Although the ABC and SBS continue to convey concerns about Trump, the realisation that he seems to be on the right track is spreading, including by Turnbull.  Of particular importance are the signs that he may have done a deal with China involving the putting of pressure on NK to change its missile threat policy. The article in today’s Australian by its first rate China correspondent, Rowan Callick, suggests that Trump may have persuaded XI to threaten Kim with a reduction in oil supply and in imports from NK (where about 80% of NK exports go). Callick also quotes a Chinese academic as saying publicly that “the fundamental interests of China and North Korea are now conflicting”. Such a statement would not be made in China unless the hint of a basic change had got around (see Chinese Policy on NK).

Chinese support for an aggressive approach against NK’s missiles policy has potential implications elsewhere. Most notably, in regard to Iran. Although since becoming President Trump has not outlined any policy on Iran, he is on record as severely criticising Obama’s policies of removing sanctions, freeing access to financial reserves and allowing Iran to become nuclear armed. A sanctions policy with NK could lead to a revival of such a policy with Iran.

Importantly also, with the imminent visit of US Vice President Pence, Turnbull has not only urged China to act against NK’s nuclear threats: his foreign Minister Bishop has even suggested China should target NK elites (see Turnbull Urges China to Act on NK). Exactly what that might involve cannot be divined. But, as I have already suggested, the fact that Kim’s domestic credibility is based on an ability to threaten missiles exposes him to assassination by NK military if that ceases to be feasible under a changed Chinese policy.

Coincidentally, Turnbull has announced a more selective policy for “temporary” immigrants at the same time as Trump is reportedly about to announce a tighter visa policy. It is unlikely that this change will have any significant adverse effect on the operation of our labour market.

More generally, the analysis below by US academic Hanson provides a wider perspective of the beneficial effects of the decisions made by the Trump government. I attended an excellent lecture by Hanson some years ago when he was brought to Australia by Owen Harries. In this article he paints a picture of Trump seeking to restore to US foreign policy what was lost under Obama. Perhaps optimistically, he argues that despite his heavy reliance on advisers with military experience/knowledge, Trump’s decisions are based on restoring a policy of deterring aggressive action by the likes of Iran, Syria and NK, not by going to war.

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