The impossible politics of walls
On January 23rd this year, not long after he had taken his place as the president of the United States, Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing his country’s immediate exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and for the renegotiation of NAFTA, which after coming into effect in 1994, the U.S.A. has held with Canada and Mexico. In the first case, the new Republican mandate aborts, from its first stages, the agreement that his predecessor, Barack Obama, achieved with eleven countries (Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore). This decision by the North American president was of huge importance. The TTP encompasses a market of 800 million people and close to 40 percent of the world’s economy. The ”why” of this immediate executive order (a determination which had already been advertised in his electoral campaign) was explained by Trump with blunt phrases: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”
Similarly, although in a more explicative way, he justified the start of the NAFTA renegotiations which are going to go down a different line from that of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Effectively, just last April when Trump was celebrating his first one hundred days in the White House (with the lowest popularity ratings of any inaugurated president in recent decades), and after having called the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico “the worst in history” the Republican rectified himself: “I was going to terminate NATFA […] the president of Mexico […] called me and, also the Prime Minister of Canada, […] they asked me to renegotiate. I will.” Trump’s correction, inspired by his most realistic economical advisers, has a lot to do with the free fall of the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar which does not benefit the North American. Canada and Mexico are the second and third trading partners of the United States and the economic turbulence of the breaking of NAFTA was being formidable.
China, a titan that has re-situated itself on the global stage, with its “capitalist authoritarianism” becoming an advocate for free trade, representing a sarcastic turn in the worldwide ideological coherence
Likewise, the building of a wall along the Mexico/US border has been put off, despite resounding statements from the White House of the contrary. The Mexican authorities are putting up a hard resistance to Trump, which does not achieve the formula for the neighboring country to co-finance the physical barrier between the two countries. It was initially claimed that it would be paid for by Mexican taxpayers in the United States.
However, Peña Nieto has taken note and has rigorously adjusted border surveillance to avoid large migratory movements towards the north; something which deeply irritated the United States administration. But the Mexican society is putting up a serious resistance towards Trump’s policies. In this sense, the analysis by Pamela K. Starr, director of US-Mexico Network is very illustrative, warning that “Mexico has an importance to the United States that, apart from Canada, no other country has.” It is essential in the management of the waters they share and in environmental policies, it is relevant for the energy markets and crucial for the creation of millions of jobs for US nationals. But, above all, Mexico is important for the United States in terms of national security: it is an essential ally against external threats to the U.S.A. that could enter via the southern border. Starr, in her assessment, added that there are “three factors that play in Mexico’s favor: its geography, its multi-party democracy and its national feeling.” All of these remarks have proven very accurate due to the fact that if Trump was thinking of intimidating the Mexicans, he is getting a discrete but efficient response.
The serious problem that arises from isolationist and protectionist policies in the fields of economy and trade, are that they are a consequence of a populism that is a reaction to the excess globalization
The corrections of the new president’s protectionist policies are simultaneous with the adjustments in the international policy plans that he had outlined: he has authorized military intervention in Syria, upsetting his former friend Vladimir Putin, he has created tense relations with North Korea and calmed those with China, a titan that has re-situated itself on the global stage, with its “capitalist authoritarianism” becoming an advocate for free trade, representing a sarcastic turn in the worldwide ideological coherence. As Jacques Rogozinski, a respected Mexican analyst from El Financiero explained, the free trade agreements, in general, need some amendments because they unquestionably cause undesirable effects, but from there, to its cancellation is an unnavigable stretch. The Mexican economist confirms that the so-called “losers to globalization” have become ravages, electorally speaking, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, encouraging “nationalist and isolationist” aims. Rogozinski lists up to twenty free trade agreements that the United States has signed and that would explain, at least partially, for the undesirable effects of these agreements on the world’s economy.
According to this economist:
“One study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another from the Economic Policy Institute highlight that ever since China was accepted into the World Trade Organization, around 2,4 million jobs have been eliminated in the United States and the trade deficit with China grew from 80 thousand million to nearly 370 thousand million dollars.” He also gives the following example that: “In 2011 the trade deficit of the United States was 13 thousand million dollars, but the following year the government signed a free trade agreement with Korea and in 2015 that gap increased to 28 thousand million.” And when referring to NAFTA, the figures are equally expressive: “In 2015 the United States went from having a surplus of 1.350 million dollars to a deficit of more than 58 thousand million… in exchange,” continues the Mexican analyst, “global and offshore companies have achieved record gains, benefiting their shareholders and those that live where they generally house their corporate accounts.”
The serious problem that arises from isolationist and protectionist policies in the fields of economy and trade, are that they are a consequence of a populism that is a reaction to the excess globalization. This has led developed societies to create a type of working class due to the effects of off-shoring; the devious competitiveness of unregulated countries and, with the exploitation of labor, those others that handle an abusive tax dumping. Differently to the European populism, specifically the French and the Nordic, which feeds much more off the xenophobic perceptions and protectionism of cultural identity, the U.S. version incorporates other variables of a socio-economic nature. Trump’s slogan, “America first,” introduces the idea that the imperialist hegemony has impoverished the country in the collective consciousness of North Americans. It is not a new speech in the U.S.A.: its isolation has been a constant, in its history, over the past two centuries and was formed within the political science of the Monroe Doctrine under the slogan “America for the Americans.” We are not against a totally unknown collective behavior of the white, Anglo Saxon and protestant (WASP) North Americans. But what is new is its radicalism, and especially, the misleading analysis of Trump’s populism that has not taken into account for the deep and irreversible changes that globalization has caused and those that need to be counterbalanced or rectified, but not to be beaten as intrinsically perverse phenomenon.
The policies of physical barriers, be that with Mexico or to the other extreme between Palestine and Israel, or trade barriers, do not work. Not only do they deteriorate co-existence, but they also erode the economies involved. The United States and the United Kingdom of Great Britain, “Trumpism” and Brexit, have adopted collective decisions based on emotively charged electoral speeches. When the mentors get into power, reality disproves their theoretical estimations. A correction of protectionism seems to prevail: Trump is not able to express his radical measures on practically any aspect, and the country’s economy is presenting serious malfunctions. Theresa May has had to call an election to deal with the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union whilst she observes how the British macro-economical data deteriorates. Surely free trade should impose homogeneous conditions of competitiveness, common regulations and outlaw abuse, the isolationist populism cannot go against the sign of the times.
A correction of protectionism seems to prevail: Trump is not able to express his radical measures on practically any aspect, and the country’s economy is presenting serious malfunctions. Theresa May has had to call an election to deal with the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union whilst she observes how the British macro-economical data deteriorates