100 Days of Turmoil
100 days after Donald J Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, everyone is looking to the White House to see just how successfully he has kept his promises. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump guaranteed to “make America great again”, and now he has been working tirelessly to implement an ‘America First’ focus into his policies. But just how successful has he been in making his ambitious agenda a reality?
During his time campaigning in North Dakota, Trump laid out his America First energy plan. In it he outlined his desire to focus on using American oil and avoid “importing energy from the OPEC cartel or any other nations hostile to American interests”. Also in this speech, Trump said his administration would focus on real environmental challenges and not fake ones.
Native Americans and other activists have continued protesting the use of the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs through the centre of the US. Using the pipeline is a key part of Trump’s plan to tap into American oil and the controversy around the topic has slowed progress in this area. Trump’s order to complete the pipeline has faced legal setbacks, but oil has been placed in a section under the Missouri River and it is preparing to be put into full service.
The U.S. has been successful in driving down energy prices and is rapidly on its way to becoming a net energy exporter. The U.S. and Australia are some of the world’s richest natural gas economies. However, the way they manage this resource is very different. The Australian Financial Review cites four differences in the U.S. Energy markets: pipeline infrastructure, financial incentives for private landowners to allow gas drilling, regulation and exports.
One of Trump’s major plans to keep jobs in America as well as regulate imports and exports in the country is a border adjustment tax (BAT). If implemented, this reform will prevent large companies from outsourcing their work or relocating offices internationally in an effort to avoid paying certain taxes.
This policy will result in a new set of incentives for American corporations. Companies that sell overseas will pay lower taxes and companies that import products and sell to the US will pay more taxes than they do now. The BAT would essentially deny a tax deduction to the US companies wanting to import goods rather than buy American made.
The net result of this proposed policy would be more exports and fewer imports. International companies selling in the US may have to pay a lot more in taxes. This would greatly impact Australians trying to move business or sell products in the US. Alternatively, Americans selling product in Australia may benefit from the new policy. What remains to be seen, however, is whether this much-discussed policy focus will get the support from Congress it needs to be enacted.
Programs for job creation
A key promise in Trump’s campaign was to bring Jobs back to the US by implementing pro-growth tax reforms. This will make American workers and business more globally competitive and may have ramifications for economic partners, such as Australia.
In the month of February U.S. businesses added 298,000 jobs, the most in three years. In addition, industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing grew at their fastest rate in several years. This pushed job growth above the 261,000 pace in January. With progress underway, Trump seems to be, so far, successful in this promise.
Muscular Immigration policy
Donald Trump’s first few months in office have been riddled with controversy after he signed an executive order on January 27, 2017 banning travel from seven Muslim countries and suspending entry to Syrian refugees indefinitely. This was a part of his plan to “protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States”.
However, shortly after the order was released, US states sued the Trump administration over the ban. U.S. District Judge James Robart stopped the first ban and the state of Washington won their case which claimed the ban violated the U.S. Constitution.
As a result Trump has initiated a new ban; however, like before, US states began suing and a federal judge in Hawaii has put a hold on the second ban. These legal issues are a major setback in Trump’s immigration policy plans. Just last week, Trump faced similar legislative roadblocks, this time from House Republicans in regards to healthcare. Trump’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act has also been unsuccessful, signalling that despite have a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, passing legislation will be far from smooth sailing. In all, Trump seems to be bogged down trying to negotiate new policies with Congress.
Bilateral trade approach
Trump’s stance on trade has been fairly consistent throughout his campaign and presidency, in that he believes “strongly in free trade, but it also has to be fair trade.” In order to accomplish this, Trump has withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and plans to renegotiate other FTAs like NAFTA.
Critics of this executive order say that it would supress business opportunities on an international scale. Even members of Trump’s party are not on board with the decision. Republican Senator John McCain said the withdrawal from the TPP was “a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Australian critics of this decision point to the merits of multilateral over bilateral trade deals. In an article for the Stimson Center in Washington D.C., William Reinsch gives four reasons why the new administration has settled on the wrong strategy, one that provides the least efficient path to mutually beneficial trade deals, even for the self-professed master deal-maker.
The stated goal of withdrawing from the TPP is to bring jobs back to America and stop participating in negotiations that do not positively impact the U.S. Although it is difficult to accurately quantify the immediate impact on the US and international economy of this decision, what is even less clear at this stage is how the administration will prioritise bilateral negotiations, and whether these deals will include provisions for twenty-first century concerns like the digital economy.
What do these new policies have to do with Australia? Will Australian business be impacted by the US political shift? To help answer these important questions, AmCham has put together a series of events across the major Australian cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide.
The events will host a plethora of expert panel speakers to offer a review of Trump’s accomplishments in his first 100 days in office. Special emphasis will be placed on how his policies may impact business in Australia.
Sarah Gibson is an Intern at AmCham in Sydney from Boston University.
Can’t get enough of the Trump phenomenon? Tune in to our podcast with a genuine expert on US politics, Dr David Smith, Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in American Politics and Foreign Policy at United States Studies Centre.