The foreign policy platform, actions and even tweets of US President Donald Trump do not occur in an isolated bubble. They have a domino affect on the world system, economies, currencies, along with the policies of allies and adversaries. There are a series of important questions to ponder when forecasting on the foreign policies of the Trump administration. How will the US act on the global stage? Is American superiority as a superpower over? And what type of leader will Trump be as President and Commander in Chief?

The US & China: is conflict inevitable?

The relationship between the US and China is often described in terms of an inevitable conflict, where the two powers are caught in a trap. The theory behind this perspective is that the established power, the US will eventually clash with the rising power, China. The perceived risk that conflict could erupt between the US and China over strategic miscalculations is high, especially given President Trump’s previous hostility towards China and his unpredictable rhetoric.

Trump’s accusations of China as a currency manipulator, the threat of increasing tariffs on Chinese goods, coupled with his emphasis on escalating the presence of US military in the South China Sea are all areas to watch. The ‘One China’ policy could also be a thorn in the US-China relationship’s side, following Trump’s decision to break US diplomatic tradition and accept a congratulatory call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

How Trump manages the US relationship with China will be crucial to global stability.

Cosier to the Kremlin

Even though evidence of Russian hacking and interference in the US elections linger over Trump’s Presidency, Trump has consistently stated his admiration for Vladimir Putin and the necessity to reset US-Russian ties.

Economic sanctions on Russia initiated by the Obama administration for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequently extended because of Russia’s hacking of the US election could potentially be lifted or reduced by the Trump administration. Trump has also questioned the validity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), labelling it archaic and an institution that allows US allies to freeload off US security. The combination of US-Russian bilateral ties and the US-NATO relationship will be critical to how the Trump administration maintains partnerships with large European countries such Germany, France, Italy and Britain. Elections in Germany and France in 2017 could also have a dramatic impact on how European countries interact with the US.

The Middle East conundrum

The 2015 Iran-Nuclear deal has been heavily scrutinised by Trump, with him threatening to ‘rip it up’. If Trump decides to withdraw the US from the Nuclear deal this could complicate Trump’s push for closer ties with Russia. The ongoing war against a reinvigorated Taliban in Afghanistan also looms as a test for Trump as Commander and Chief, along with how Trump decides to deal with the Syrian crisis and the continual battle against ISIS.

Global governance

The Paris Agreement on limiting carbon emissions will be in the firing line of the Trump administration. Trump has persistently denied the science of climate change, labelling it a hoax and going so far to suggest it was created by the Chinese to ensure US manufacturing is not competitive. Trump has also previously characterised the United Nations as an antiquated institution, with threats to reduce funding. Dismantling, reforming and outright withdrawing from free trade agreements also looks to be a central pillar of Trump’s ‘America first’ trade policy. Trump labelled the North American Free Trade Agreement a ‘disaster’ for US workers, taking particular aim at Mexico. The Trans-Pacific Partnership looks to be dead in the water, with Trump announcing his intention to withdraw the US from the agreement immediately.

This brief on the foreign policy landscape of the Trump administration is merely a glimpse of what lies ahead for the US and the world in 2017. As the foreign policy platform of the Trump administration becomes more clear, there will be further issues for the Almanis forecaster to watch and forecast on in our Trump’s World collection.

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