What Trump’s ‘America First Policy’ Means for Singapore and the rest of Asia

The world is still shell-shocked after Trump’s victory in the U.S elections. In emerging economies, especially in Asia, things could never be worse. The region has countries that have strong ties with the U.S and Trump has said he intends to look anew at all these partnerships. In Singapore, the markets tanked after the announcement of the results and this was replicated across Asia; from Shanghai to Seoul.


President of America not the World

One of the reasons Trump managed to stun Hillary Clinton was his promise to put America first. During his first official press conference regarding his policies, Trump categorically stated that he would put the interest of the country first. Afterwards, he has come out strongly against alliances signed with Asian countries. His focus has been on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he calls a terrible deal.

The core of Trump’s ‘America First’ policy is the promise to bring back jobs that many companies have taken abroad. With the proposed penalties against American companies exporting jobs to Asian countries such as Singapore, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Taiwan are bound to feel the pinch. Millions of jobs could be lost if companies such as Baxter in Singapore are forced to go back home.

During a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump addressed supporters and said over 70,000 factories have moved to Asia. His address mentioned Goodrich Lighting Systems, Baxter and Essilor, which he claims laid off workers in order to find cheap labor abroad. It is against this backdrop that American voters were enticed to vote for Trump with the promise that he would right this greatest job theft in America.


The Politics of America First Policy

There is a big political implication of the America first policy as proposed by Trump. This would mean that the pivot to Asia policy would no longer be a priority. This was Obama’s strategy to enable the U.S relate closely with Asia through trade alliances and redeployment of troops.

If Trump disengages with Asia, this would leave China as a dominant force in the region. Countries in the South China Sea such as Philippines would be greatly disadvantaged. However, Trump has also indicated willingness to allow Japan develop nuclear weapons for its own protection. This again would change the political dynamics in the region.

The uncertainties over Trump’s policies towards Asia are certainly going to hurt the region. The earlier he announces his plans the better for the entire region’s economic and political stability.