How Trump is turning our allies against us.
Trump is risking our allyships. Japan, the UK, and Mexico have been some of our longest standing friends in the global world. But that might soon be over.
Trump visited Japan for a four-day state visit. Prime Minister Abe welcomed Trump with open arms, and the two spent some time on the golf course. Abe has stated that the two leaders have an "unshakable bond." It may seem then, that Japan-US relations are on steady ground. I would argue the contrary. This came to light in the focus of the trip, discussing trade and security on the Asian continent; Trump seemed to undoubtedly side with North Korean interests and pushing his anti-Democratic party agenda even while abroad.
Trump's Twitter was lit up the entire trip, and he didn't hold back on his criticisms. Instead of informing the public about his talks with Abe, he decided to instead attack Democrats and Joe Biden. In a May, 25th tweet, Trump noted that he "smiled when [Kim Jong Un] called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse." I think it goes without saying that using the world's most prolific dictator's words to insult your possible presidential opponent is wrong on too many levels. Trump may dislike Biden, but he should ultimately be siding with and supporting, his fellow American politicians more than he does a foreign tyrant.
In the same tweet, Trump chalked up North Korea's recent short-range-ballistic missile tests to just "some small weapons." He then went on to say that the threat "disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me." These tests, according to both Abe and American national security advisor, John Bolton, violated UN resolutions. The Japanese have rightfully worried about these specific missiles, which are powerful enough to reach Japanese territory and have frequently been pointed East in the direction of the island. Trump's dismissal of a very real threat to Japan shows a severe lack of allyship that may begin to chip away at Japanese trust in American aid in regard to North Korea, one of Japan's largest concerns. In presenting substantial disrespect for his hosts, Trump seemed more focused on opposing Democrats, insulting Americans who don't support him, and defending a dictator who is all too friendly with, than working with one of his biggest allies to ease their fears about a serious threat to their people.
It is an unspoken rule that officials should put domestic issues on the back-burner when working on international relations abroad. When presidents, or any public official for that matter, travel to work with foreign countries and leaders, they should take very seriously the fact that they represent America, not just their supporters. Any other showcase of loyalty makes America look disjointed, split, and unreliable. An unreliable ally is probably not one that countries will choose to keep around for long.
The UK and Ireland
Next Trump traveled to the United Kingdom, where he was opposed by nearly everyone except for Prime Minister Theresa May. His UK trip varied little from his Japanese debut; shooting off ill-advised tweets, insulting political leaders, and failing to make any real headway with one of our biggest and most historical allies. Shocking even Trump's most cynical critics, the president went so far as to call Meghan Markle "nasty," and Sadiq Khan, London's mayor, a "stone-cold loser." This is the language he uses unabashedly at home, but to continue its use abroad is beyond insulting. A full state visit was laid out for the American president, and he responded by attacking a member of the royal family, and mayor of the UK's largest city.
London's streets were flooded with protesters against Trump's visit. A giant baby-Trump balloon was also flown high above the streets. In a delusional twist that is not at all out of character, Trump tweeted the following: "I kept hearing that there would be "massive" rallies against me in the UK, but it was quite the opposite. The big crowds, which the Corrupt Media hates to show, were those that gathered in support of the USA and me. They were big & enthusiastic as opposed to the organized flops!" This just isn't true. But many of Trump's domestic supporters will believe his false statements.
With such a clear public distrust of Trump, America's only hope for hanging onto UK allyship is in the political leaders of the UK. Right now, Trump has that somewhat secured. Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, and Brexit supporter Nigel Farage seem to support Trump. He met with both of them but refused a visit with progressive Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, members of Liberal Democrats, members of the Green Party, and other politicians boycotted the state dinner with Mr. Trump. Trump described Farage and the conservative Boris Johnson as "friends" and "good guys," while touting Corbyn as a "negative force." May is stepping down from her role as Prime Minister. This doesn't bode well for Trump. Unless her successor has as much support for trump as she does, he will find very few fans waiting for him across the pond.
Trump has been an avid supporter of Brexit, a largely conservative-backed plan. Brexit would be good for Trump. If the UK no longer finds support on its own continent, it can expect to invest most of its social, financial, and political capital in the United States to secure a strong and stable ally. Although once a mighty world power, the UK has lost some of its prowess and it likely can't survive without ties to a greater force (currently that force is the EU). But, with those who oppose Brexit also being the ones who oppose Trump, they have been emboldened to fight even harder for what they know wouldn't just be a separation from the EU, but a marriage with the United States. And, while the royal family plays little role in actually deciding political policy, they are a staple institution of the United Kingdom's identity. With Trump's flying insults at Markle, and with the royal family's general dislike towards the American president, it is likely that many UK citizens will defend their lead and turn away from the United States.
Trump ended his trip by traveling to Shannon, Ireland where he met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar for only 30 to 40 minutes. He then traveled to a small town on the coast Ireland, Doonbeg, where he owns and profits from an expansive, 400-acre golf course. In Doonbeg, Trump avoided his critics that had taken up protests in larger cities. Instead, he hunkered down in the 260 person town, where American flags had been flown for his arrival. He is traveling to France next and is scheduled to return to Doonbeg to play golf before heading back to the United States. May Trump opposers feel that his dual stay in Ireland is being used to drum up business for his golf-course, not for diplomacy, as Trump and Varadkar are meeting for a shorter period of time than a doctor's check-up. Trump answered these fears when asked by a reporter if "this trip for you just about promoting your golf club?" The president said that "this trip is really about great relationships that we have with the UK." However, the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK. His under an hour meeting with the Prime Minister of a country not-affiliated with the UK clearly has nothing to do with the Americas/UK relationship. I'll leave you to decide what you think about this matter. But it seems to be a business trip.
Mexico is the United States' number-one trading ally. Products that we use heavily are brought over our Southern border, and a lot of them are moved back and forth to be produced in different factories. Clearly, any sort of trade disruption with Mexico would hit American consumers hard. Trump doesn't seem to care. He issued a 5% tariff on Mexican imports until they have stemmed the flow of illegal immigrants coming up through Mexico's Southern border, and then crossing ours. The tariff will go into effect sometime next week.
There are three actions that the Trump administration wants Mexico to take on immigration. First, Mexico needs to take in all of the asylum seekers from Central America and not let them enter the United States. Second, Mexico must beef up the security on their Southern border. And thirdly, Mexico must manage border checkpoints better so that migrants can't make it all the way through the country and into the United States. If these steps are not taken by October, says Trump, the tariff will increase to 25%. This is going to severely damage American and Mexican consumers. Since much of US/Mexican production is shipped back and forth across the border, some companies would be paying the tariff multiple times. Additionally, industries such as the automobile industry and agriculture would suffer greatly. It is estimated that the tariffs would cause over 400,000 jobs in America, and hurt farmers, who also happen to be some of Trump's most ardent supporters (likely the top five most highly affected states will be Texas, Michigan, California, Illinois and Ohio, all of which except for California and Illinois voted for Trump in 2016).
The truth is, Trump is scrambling to act on his campaign promises of ending illegal immigration. Since his past efforts have failed, he is grasping at straws to find some way, any way, to deliver on his pledges before the 2020 election. But he's doing it all wrong. Most of Trump's supporters are not directly affected by immigration. If come 2020, he hasn't stemmed the border problem, many of them will hardly take notice. What his supporters will take notice of, though, is his economic missteps that are putting them out of business. It is always better to not make things better than to make them worse.
On the Mexican side, this comes as a shock. The United States may be a global powerhouse, but we are still reliant on a lot of Mexico's trade and production. Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan said that "this is not going to happen in seven days." He emphasized that the changes Trump is requesting will take time and that giving the Mexican government only a week to fashion systematic alterations to their border control puts them in an impossible position.
Additionally, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed last year but still needs to be ratified by each country before it goes into effect. Mexico is highly unlikely to ratify it now. This deal replaced NAFTA, an agreement that Trump vehemently mocked. USMCA aims to open trade relationships in North America, and puts special emphasis on the auto and cheese industries in the United States. Without this deal, automobile factory workers and dairy farmers will be hindered. Therefore, Trump's tariffs will not only hurt these industries but also lead to a lack of the USMCA, which would benefit these industries. This is likely to hurt our relationship with Mexico in the future.
But maybe, just maybe, it will drive Trump supporters away from selecting his name on the 2020 ballot. That's all we can hope for.