Thursday, May 23, 2024

As US president Trump would renegotiate trade deals with Botswan

President Ian Khama would have a very good reason to be worried about Donald Trump becoming United States president because of what the latter has vowed to do.

In a week in which his government was bold enough to tackle an Asian giant over the South China Sea, on his personal Facebook page, Khama has expressed connect-the-dots misgivings about what disaster a Trump would mean. The president felt the need to make such pronouncement having “been approached by many people to comment on my choice for President in the upcoming presidential elections in the United States of America.” He doesn’t mention Trump by name but it is clear that he is referring to him.

“I hope that whoever is elected as the next President of the United States of America, will uphold the fundamental democratic principles and values which successive American Administrations have sought to promote both domestically and internationally,” the post on Khama’s page says.

The most telling part is when the president says that “some of the utterances that have come out during the recent presidential debates are a source of concern for me, as some of these values and principles would be under threat in the event those responsible for them were to assume the Presidency.” While Khama limits his comment to what Trump has said in the debates, the latter has dropped bombs off the debate stage as well. Motivated by conviction that the US has gotten a raw deal from free trade deals with other countries, the Republican Party frontrunner has vowed to replace free trade with what he calls “fair trade” if elected president in the November general election. To that end, he says that he will gather together the “smartest negotiators in the world”, assign them each a country and renegotiate all foreign trade deals to give the US greater advantage.

Typically, Trump doesn’t provide policy detail and rarely does so. On the campaign trail, he has promised to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as “Obamacare”) and replace it with something “terrific”, something that is “so much better, so much better, so much better.” He has promised to use “common sense” to fix the mental health system and prevent mass shootings.

Through his past ownership of the Miss Universe pageant, Trump had a business relationship with a Botswana citizen, Mpule Kwelagobe, who was crowned Miss Universe in 1999. As president he would deal with Botswana through the US Department of Trade. Much of the Botswana-US trade occurs under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA as it is known. The latter is a trade preference programme that gives qualified African countries duty- and quota-free access to the US market on over 6000 products, expanding on benefits available under the Generalized System of Preferences. Through its trade capacity-building programme, the US has established regional trade hubs for global competitiveness which it funds and manages through the United States Agency for International Development. The latter works with regional organisations to increase regional economic integration, reduce barriers to regional trade, and facilitate investment in infrastructure. Southern Africa’s hub is located in Gaborone ÔÇô the other hubs are in Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal.

Botswana is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which has signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the US. The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and trade and investment promotion. Botswana and the US also belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Quoting figures between 32 and 35 percent, Trump has vowed that if elected president, he will impose new taxes on many imports into the country. He has not stated what imports those will be but the US is the main importer of Botswana’s diamonds.

On a promising familial note, a President Trump might just help reunite prodigal Batswana sons and daughters overstaying their visas with their families. Experts agree that the plan is not feasible but Trump has vowed to deport the almost 11 million immigrants illegally living in the US and triple the number of US Immigration and Customs enforcement officers.

It doesn’t seem like Trump will care too much about having cordial relations with other nations. In order to keep illegal immigrants out, he says that an “artistically beautiful” wall will be constructed out of hardened concrete, rebar and steel (“the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen”) between the US and Mexico and that he will make the latter pay for it. If Mexico refuses, the US will impound all remittance payments taken from the wages of illegal immigrants, cut foreign aid, institute tariffs, cancel visas for Mexican business leaders and diplomats, and increase fees for visas, border-crossing cards and port use. When meeting the Iranian leader ÔÇô an elderly man with a luxuriant growth of ancient-times beard, Trump says he will dispense with the diplomatic protocol of “Your Excellency …” and refer to him with a distinctly American casual form of address. In his words: “I guarantee you I will be never calling him the Supreme Leader… I’ll say, ‘Hey baby, how ya doing?’ I will never call him the Supreme Leader.”

Dissatisfied with Caroline Kennedy’s performance as America’s ambassador to Japan, Trump says that if he becomes president, he will pick a “killer” to replace her. On the basis of a statement he has made, Trump will himself be personally killing people. Commenting on the issue of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who abandoned his post and wandered off into mountains and the waiting hands of the Taliban, Trump said he would drop that “dirty, rotten traitor” out of an airplane into desolate Afghanistan without a parachute.

For Americans who are not traitors, life will be cloyingly good: “We’re going to win so much — win after win after win — that you’re going to be begging me: ‘Please, Mr. President, let us lose once or twice. We can’t stand it any more.’ And I’m going to say: ‘No way. We’re going to keep winning. We’re never going to lose. We’re never, ever going to lose.” 

What currently stands between that Utopia and Americans is the November election which Trump may win because of a huge fan base that includes the “poorly educated.” In his victory speech after winning the Nevada caucuses, he thanked this particular group of voters: “We won with the poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Not everyone voting for Trump will be doing so to allow him to restore America to its greatness. According to one netizen, “I’m voting for Donald Trump because I never seen a president get assassinated before.” That may seem shocking now but has been said before at the Trump Comedy Central Roast. Tongue-in-cheek, a comedian named Jeff Ross said he looked forward to a Trump president.

“First though, I hope you win because I can’t wait for the assassinay – I mean inauguration,” said Ross, later adding that both he and Trump fantasise about his (Trump’s) daughter, Ivanka.

The joke would have seemed tasteless to those who didn’t know that through what his hardcore fans see as a “joke”, Trump previously expressed incestuous lust towards his daughter: “She does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Nothing within 10 kilometres of common sense explains why Trump should become a world leader but it is now highly likely that he will replace Barack Obama.

Operating on the assumption that one candidate with a familiar name who dropped out of the race was the Republican frontrunner, that he won in November, Botswana would also have won. As president, George Bush was an absolute disaster for the US but a godsend for Africa. Former president Festus Mogae has said about the same thing albeit using a different set of words. Bush did more for Africa than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama combined. As a matter of fact, Clinton played no small role in the Great Recession of 2008 that caused Botswana to suspend it diamond exports to the US. As president, Clinton failed to act on regulating the derivatives market which was the central cause of the financial crash.

Going back to 1797, the US economy had boom-and-bust cycles that happened every 15 years. The solution came 1933 with the promulgation of the Glass-Steagall Act which limited commercial bank securities, activities, and affiliations within commercial banks and securities firms. In 1999, when Clinton signed an act repealing Glass-Steagall, financial analysts predicted that what is now known as the Great Recession will definitely happen. Years later when it analysed this Recession, the New York Times put Clinton in the gallery of rogues directly responsible for it.

On the other hand, Bush started the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to provide antiretroviral treatment and care for HIV/AIDS patients primarily in Africa. PEPFAR has been credited with saving millions of lives and Botswana was among its main beneficiaries. Between 2001 and 2008 when he left office, Bush’s total development programme for Africa (besides food aid and emergencies for civil wars) increased by 600 percent. It is highly probable that President Jeb Bush would have wanted to expand on the policy gains of his brother.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper