Trump may not have taken chess lessons but he appears to be playing on two tables simultaneously
The photograph taken of US President Donald Trump sitting across a table arms crossed while Angela Merkel, leaning forward standing on the other side of table, looked at him sternly, like a mother would look at a petulant child, was an instant viral phenomenon on social media. This was at the summit meeting of the world’s self-appointed seven most important economies, the G7. Hours later, we learned that the Boeing 747 that doubles as his airborne chariot ‘Air Force One’ has internet connectivity as Trump torched the US’ relationship with its northern neighbour Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being ‘weak’ and backed away from the G7 communique.
By declaring tariffs on Canada, Mexico and Europe, Donald Trump is appealing to his base and believes he is living up to his election slogan of Making America Great Again (MAGA) as these tariffs would, he and his economic advisors believe, revitalise US industry or make foreign countries pay the costs of rehabilitating the US ‘rust belt’ across the country’s midwest where hundreds of thousands of blue-collar jobs held by white working males have been lost. However, low tariffs for exporting to America have been a cornerstone of Pax Americana outlined by President Harry Truman and his successors and laid the basis for the development of the global economy in the aftermath of World War 2. Would the defeated nations of that war, Germany and Japan have become the giant powerhouses they have become without America? No. Nor would China be the power it is today had Richard Nixon not begun the dialogue that allowed leaders like Deng Xioping to emerge. At the same time, Trump also took a swipe at India’s import tariffs, which on some products like cars remain above 100 per cent, and even we feel that those are frankly ridiculous. The world is truly scared of amn impending trade war, although global markets are still acting very coy, having learnt to ignore Trump to a great degree and hoping that the arch-capitalists and traders of Trump’s Republican Party can possibly knock some sense into him, especially his they get demolished in the 2018 Autumn mid-term Congressional elections.
But Trump works on dichotomies, while he was busy blowing the global trade order from Air Force One, his Boeing 747 was enroute to Singapore for a meeting no-one ever thought possible with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un. This time last year, half the world was worried that Seoul would have nuclear fallout falling over it. This is a remarkable meeting, however Trump should be wary here that he does not get played, not by Kim but by his greatest adversary, Xi Jinping. In his rush to make a deal he should not fall into the same trap that he accused his predecessor Barack Obama of falling into with Iran.
Make no mistakes, Donald Trump is more shrewd than most of the world gives him credit for, because he won a nomination that no-one expected and an election that no-one even contemplated. Some, particularly in the establishment media might scoff at his tactics, but the way he plays chess is not classical, it is brute force chess. But that is the same way computers play chess and nowadays, computers always win at that game. So with both North Korea and global trade, Trump may be on to something.