The World Watches — With Hope, Fear and Amusement
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the world cares about who comes next into the Oval Office.
The world is waiting, and watching closely. Just hours from now, once the U.S. election is all said and done, many are expecting stock markets abroad to rise — or sink — and discussions to begin about trade-agreement overhauls or new processes for immigrating to America. The kind of polarized postulating about how a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency could affect other countries mirrors, to some degree, the ideological clash between these two candidates. Here is what OZY’s reporters have discovered as they’ve tracked foreign sentiment about how POTUS No. 45 could change life abroad.
These border-sharing buddies, who boast the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, are bracing for change — regardless of whether Trump or Clinton wins. Trump has warned he might pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico if it isn’t renegotiated to his liking — a move that former Prime Minister Kim Campbell has told OZY “would be incredibly destructive for Canada.” But Clinton has also embraced a more anti-free-trade stance following her pull further left by Bernie Sanders.
That’s partly why even though 80% of Canadians believe it would be “bad” for their country if Trump wins — which is the highest since Insights West has polled on the question since August 2015 — about a third still think the same thing is true if Clinton becomes president. Even so, a separate poll last week from Global News Ipsos found that Canadians believed Clinton was a better choice than Trump on each of a dozen policy issues, with 82% citing the former first lady as better overall for Canada. For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been careful about picking a preferred future partner, saying just days ago that he’s “going to have faith in the American political process and reassure Canadians that I will work with whomever gets elected to continue to defend Canada’s interest and grow our economy.”
While the U.K. usually takes an amused ringside seat during American elections, most British people have good reason to be tired of politics this time given the ongoing fallout from Brexit and Scotland’s grumbling about another independence referendum. Most nods to the U.K.’s “special relationship” with the U.S. this election have come from the far right, including when Independence Party leader Nigel Farage recently appeared at a Trump rally. More representative, though, was the attitude of the more than 500,000 Brits who signed a petition calling for Trump to be barred from the U.K. — and which sparked a parliamentary debate where members of Parliament dubbed the Donald a “wazzock.”
Regardless of the outcome, the election’s results will point a clearer way out of the U.K.’s post-Brexit economic murk. The British badly need to secure a strong new trade relationship with the U.S., says Tristen Naylor, a diplomatic studies lecturer at the University of Oxford. But at the moment, America is looking to Europe for a new trade deal — and the U.K. has made it clear that doesn’t include them.
In the Philippines, long a close ally of the U.S., America’s elections are always of interest. But this one arrives at a fraught time in the countries’ relationship. Newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte has sought a more “independent” foreign policy, with frequent criticism of America and a friendlier stance toward China. While America remains popular among Filipinos — with a huge U.S. diaspora sending $9.6 billion worth of remittances back home in 2014 — Duterte’s posturing undermines President Obama’s efforts to cozy up to Southeast Asia as a hedge to China’s military rise. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is as much of a diplomatic as an economic goal on this score, and the Philippines has expressed interest in joining the 12-nation deal in the future.
Cant make this stuff up: Obama threatens to cancel meeting with Philippine President Duterte after being called SOB https://t.co/aSBF7Ndqom
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) September 5, 2016
But both Trump and Clinton have vowed to reject the pending agreement. Clinton is more likely to change her mind, particularly if the TPP clears a lame-duck Congress, while Trump has built his campaign on tearing up trade deals. Still, the Philippines has become a wild card in this region.
Though upper-class Indians are more than aware of the impending election — and any American found in a cocktail-party conversation will find herself fielding the “Trump, really?” conversation — it’s not on the day-to-day minds of most of the country. When the topic comes up, it’s mostly curiosity about the sense that a uniquely Indian form of political melodrama seems to be playing out across waters. One friend of mine had a bartender tell him most Indians would just rather have Obama back. Was that doable?
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) October 16, 2016
Don’t forget, though, the small alliance of South Asians and Trump supporters who gathered to much fanfare twice this year, as well as a group of Hindu nationalists who gathered to pray for his victory this spring, and those in the U.S. who held a bizarre fundraiser this fall. While we can’t call those representative, they certainly point to some areas of sympathy between the Indian and American right: concern over terrorism, a desire to call it out as Islamic and a willingness to crack down hard.
Long enamored with American pop culture, Thailand is keenly interested in America’s election — well, at least its high-entertainment Hollywood elements. “Trump has more dramatic effects, but many Thais find Clinton more palatable, partly because Obama is so well-liked in this neighborhood,” says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.
Despite being a longtime ally of the U.S., including serving as a staging ground for the military during the Vietnam War, Thailand has been on the rocks with America in terms of political and economic relations for some time now. The country is ruled by a military junta often accused of human rights violations and now finds itself in the midst of a tricky royal succession after the death of its beloved king. Junta leaders have said they want to join the TPP — but the deal is on the verge of crumbling, particularly if Trump wins. The silver lining for Clinton, if she wins? A transition from President Obama, who is “like a rock star in Southeast Asia,” says Pongsudhirak. “His aura has a spillover effect for Clinton.”
While many support Clinton here, partly because she’s seen as an extension of beloved President Obama, some are trepidatious when it comes to female leaders — even though neighboring Germany has been ruled by Angela Merkel for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the far right all over Europe sees Trump as a potential ally. While his showmanship and “locker room talk” aren’t appreciated across the pond, says Ruth Wodak, author of The Politics of Fear and an expert in far right parties, she notes that Trump’s more Silvio Berlusconi than Marine Le Pen: “‘Make America Great Again’ is very similar to many slogans heard from far right populist parties,” she says. “He works a lot with fear and hope, presenting himself as the savior of the people.” A Trump election could strengthen the sense that populism is in ascendance, offering force to the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim politics common to far right parties not just in Austria, but also in Hungary, Sweden and France.
The Trump-Clinton debates were dispiriting and farcical to many Americans, though they were followed closely on social media — with envy — in Cambodia, which has been controlled by strongman Hun Sen for more than 30 years. The people here, and youth in particular, “wish to see this model to be practiced in Cambodia,” says Channy Chheng, who co-founded a Phnom Penh discussion group called Politikoffee for youth to discuss the issues of the day. Ahead of national elections in 2018, police and the courts are cracking down on dissent against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party — and they’ve already exiled the opposition leader. “There are dozens of political parties in Cambodia, but the election, to me, is not free and fair yet,” Chheng says. Some might even call the process “rigged.”