By Martin Khor Analysis
As the first 100 days of Donald Trump's government as president of the United States have passed, it is time to assess the impact he has had so far in the world, and especially in developing countries.
It is too early to draw big conclusions, but what has been seen since he took office on January 20 until now is worrying.
Trump said that the United States should not be drawn into the wars of others, but on the 6th of this month it attacked Syria, despite the fact that there was no strong evidence to show the responsibility of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in the use of chemical weapons.
It then dropped what has been called the largest non-nuclear bomb on a heavily populated district in Afghanistan.
Some observers believed that the purpose of that attack was to send an internal message, since nothing increases the popularity of the president so much or tests his strength as facing an enemy.
Perhaps his actions were also directed at the leader of North Korea, who in turn threatened to respond with conventional or nuclear bombs in the event of a US attack, and probably meant it. And Trump himself threatened to bomb his nuclear facilities.
With two presidents so unpredictable, we could be incredibly on the brink of nuclear war.
“There are members of the president's closest circle who believe that the Trump administration is seriously contemplating taking the‘ first strike ’against North Korea. But if (North Korean President) Kim Jong Un came to the same conclusion, he could shoot first, "said Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times.
In addition, he observed that the US president may have concluded that the military alternative is the way to "win" the image he promised to the voters.
The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said the worst nightmare is Trump getting muddled in a new Korean war. It can happen if it destroys a missile test that North Korea is about to launch, since that country could respond by launching its artillery against Seoul, where 25 million people live.
General Gary Luck, a former commander of the US forces in South Korea, estimated that a new Korean war could leave one million victims and one trillion (billion) in damage, Kristof said.
Far from the expectations of ceasing to be the world's policeman to put "America first," the new president might think that wars, or at least the launching of missiles and bombs in other countries, is "making the United States be great again ”.
That may be easier than winning internal battles such as replacing the health policy of former President Barack Obama or banning the entry of citizens and refugees from seven Muslim countries, initiatives already blocked by justice.
The message that there are groups of people or countries that are not welcome in the United States could be having consequences; the latest reports show a decline in tourism and a decrease in applications from foreign students to enter a university in that country.
Another setback was carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Trump condemned as obsolete, but later applauded it for "no longer being obsolete," much to the relief of his Western allies.
Another change of course, although welcome, was when Trump acknowledged that China in the end does not manipulate its currency, despite the fact that in the campaign he promised that the first thing he would do upon reaching the Presidency would be to register it as manipulative, which would imply raising taxes. to the entry of Chinese products.
Trump remains obsessed with the US trade deficit and, according to him, China is the main culprit, with 347 billion of trade surplus.
At a bilateral summit in Florida on 7-8 this month, the two countries agreed on a proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping to have a 100-day plan to increase US exports to China and thus reduce the trade deficit. .
In trade matters, Trump also asked his Secretary (Minister) of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, for a report within 90 days on bilateral trade deficits to find out their causes, whether due to dumping (selling at a loss), deception, subsidies , free trade agreements, currency mismatches or even unfair rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Then the US president can take steps to correct the imbalances, Ross said.
In the first 100 days of the administration, Trump failed to follow through on his threat to impose additional taxes on Mexico and China. But he did withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and it remains to be seen if he was serious about reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The threat to the business system may come from a tax reform prepared by leaders of the ruling Republican Party in Congress. The original document contains a "trade adjustment" system in order to impose a 20 percent tax on imports to the United States, while exempting corporate taxes on exports.
If such a law is passed, criticism will come from the rest of the world, in many cases against the United States in the WTO, just as it is to be expected that several countries will retaliate. It is possible that due to internal opposition, this aspect of the trade adjustment will be put aside or, at least, that it will be modified considerably.
As America's new trade policy takes shape, in his first 100 days as president, Trump installed an air of protectionism.
Another sensitive issue has been Trump's push against Obama's climate change policy. He proposed reducing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and eliminating research and prevention programs on this phenomenon in all federal government agencies.
The Environmental Protection Agency, now headed by a climate change skeptic, has ordered a review of standards for vehicle exhaust pollution and a review of the Clean Power Plan, which was at the center of Obama's policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The plan would have led to the closure of hundreds of coal-fired plants, halted construction of new plants and replaced existing ones with wind and solar farms.
"The revocation of the policy also signals that Trump has no intention of honoring Obama's formal commitments under the Paris Agreement," Coral Davenport observed in The New Times.
Under the climate agreement, the United States committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 26 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 volumes.
In fact, there appears to be an internal debate in the United States about whether or not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But even if he stays, the new delegation could discourage or prevent other countries from moving toward new measures and actions.
There is great concern about Trump's intention to stop contributing $ 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which assists developing countries in implementing climate change projects.
Obama transferred the first $ 1 billion, but the Trump administration will not make any more payments unless Congress repeals the president's decision, which is highly unlikely.
Another negative aspect of the first 100 days of government, especially for developing countries, is Trump's intention to downplay international and development cooperation.
In March, Washington released its budget proposal with a large 28 percent cut, or $ 10.9 billion, to the UN and other international organizations, the Department of State (Foreign Ministry) and the U.S. Agency for International Development ( Usaid), while increasing the military budget by $ 54 billion.
That coincided with the call of the UN humanitarian affairs coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, to urgently inject funds to face the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II (1939-1945) and a severe drought that affects 38 million people in 17 African countries.
Trump also proposed cutting the United States contribution to the general UN budget by an unspecified amount and paying at most 25 percent of the cost of peacekeeping missions. Until now, it was responsible for 22 percent of the UN budget, of $ 5.4 billion, and 28.5 percent of the resources of peacekeeping missions, of $ 7.9 billion.
In addition, Washington will cut 650 million dollars in three years from the World Bank and other multilateral credit organizations.
The community working on foreign affairs in the United States is shocked by Trump's myopia, and 121 retired generals and admirals urged Congress to continue allocating funds to diplomacy and foreign assistance as before because they considered it fundamental as a way of prevent conflicts.
The idea of Trump is likely to be discussed in Congress because there are many people who advocate for diplomacy, with humanitarian concerns, but we will have to wait.
Finally, the problem with the reduction of funds is that Trump's approach to foreign policy dilutes the spirit and meaning of international cooperation.
If one of the largest emitters of polluting gases into the atmosphere disbelieves and questions that global warming is the result of human activity, and that it could devastate the Earth, and stops committing to take local measures and help the rest, other countries they might be tempted or driven to do the same.
The world could be deprived of its much-needed cooperation to save itself from catastrophic overheating.
Translated by Verónica Firme
Photo: If one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide does not believe that climate change is the result of human activity and can destroy the planet, and does not commit to take mitigation measures locally and to help the rest, other countries could be tempted or driven to do the same. Credit: Cam McGrath / IPS.