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Talking Trade blog

US presidential candidates and a potentially looming trade catastrophe

Published 23 September 2016

Washington, DC: This week I’m in Washington, talking to trade policy experts. All countries, perhaps, are consumed with their domestic environment. In a nasty political campaign season, the inward focus is more pronounced than ever.

Here in DC, all trade eyes remain firmly on the prospects for the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the end of the year.  Despite the loud and dramatic storm and fury blowing across the country on trade, experts in town are grimly determined or even just slightly, barely, quietly confident this week that the agreement will be done.

Or, perhaps, they cannot bring themselves to fully embrace the consequences of failure.

For a full picture of what this year’s election might hold for the US economy, the fine folks at the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) have helpfully released the attached study on the economic plans of both candidates.  It makes for grim reading (or listening).

The bottom line—if Donald Trump becomes President, the economic consequences for the United States are substantial, negative and sharp.  Clinton’s current rejection of the TPP is not helpful, but would not cause the same kind of lasting damage.

Equally useful to know, decades of past policies have given the President the tools he might use to put catastrophic plans into action, with little restraint by either Congress or the domestic court system. 

Companies may want to read the attached report carefully and have their lawyers ready on speed dial.  These phone numbers might come in very handy after the election dust settles on November 8.

In the meantime, the PIIE report should reinforce the importance for companies of thinking about alternatives.  American trade policy will likely be different in 2017 and firms should be ready for it.

© The Hinrich Foundation. See our website Terms and conditions for our copyright and reprint policy. All statements of fact and the views, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the author(s).

Dr. Elms is Head of Trade Policy at the Hinrich Foundation in Singapore.  Prior to joining the Foundation, she was the Executive Director and Founder of the Asian Trade Centre (ATC). She was also President of the Asia Business Trade Association (ABTA) and the Board Director of the Asian Trade Centre Foundation (ATCF).

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