The other side of trade wars  

Mahmudur Rahman   | Published: July 20, 2018 22:11:06 | Updated: July 21, 2018 21:10:54


It may have gone unnoticed but the tizzy that US President Donald Trump has created over trade-wars has had an impact on armed conflict elsewhere. To the curious, this may be a new tactic to divert thoughts from expansionism to focusing on that which hurts every country's economy. And if Mr. Trump is to be taken seriously the UK may well become one of the latest that may get hurt badly if no special trade deal is struck with the US next year. That everyone is either smarting under or taking stock of the implications of the rude tariff barriers imposed by the US is apparent with the first case having been filed at the International Court of Justice against what is clearly a violation of the World Trade Organisation rules (WTO) against the United States.

The outcome of the case is clear. If it goes against the US, she will simply withdraw from the ICJ just as it has from the UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council. That affects the funding of the organisations concerned. But if there are a raft of cases, the US risks being isolated and in the longer run its strategic military aspects will come under increasing threats. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was thatched by the US to counter the threat of Soviet expansionism. With Russia a weaker, not a spent force this is as good a time as any for Mr. Trump to question the balance of payment issue in running the NATO and he is not unjustified in asking the big players Germany, France and Italy, if not all to come up with their committed share of 2.0 per cent of GDP. Ideally he would like that to double, to be more than the 3.5 per cent coughed up by the US. It makes sense that Europe should pay for its security and was a major element of the Trump election manifesto. After all, there's a massive budget deficit that needs attending to.

And as the bills are added up, one of the first areas to come under the pending axe is spending on wars that, stated or not do stick out as sore thumbs that can have a thimble put on it. Bombing expeditions in Libya and Syria have abated to a degree now that Mr. Trump has conceded Russia's dominance in the region. His only concern is that `Israel is not under risk and that has been proven by the reluctance of anyone to react to provocation such as `Israeli missiles traversing Lebanese and Syrian airspace.

Theresa May's hopes of somewhat of a prop-up for her and her government seem to have been dashed by the US President's tweets on what he thinks of the Brexit handling exacerbated by the fact that Ms. May chose not to accept his 'suggestions'. Angela Merkel has put on a brave face by saying 'Germany decides its politics and trade' in response to his open hostility to the energy deals with Russia. Mr. Trump is a man who believes in disruption and willing to accept the price of backlash as is evident from the rapport with North Korea and a thumbs-down to climate change. It's a matter of when rather than if, Mr. Trump zeroes in on Germany in the future. That is on hold for now.

The writer may be reached at mahmudrahman@gmail.com

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