Image: Wikimedia
Image: Wikimedia

One of the first acts from US president, Donald Trump was to pull out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), his latest act is to call in on the Middle East, dance with the odd sword, and do lots of deals with his good friends the Saudis.  But are both acts in danger of back-firing?


“We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” he said, to the obvious pleasure of his hosts and leaders from across the Middle East. “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” he continued “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.”

We have been here before of course. George Dubya Bush used to refer to Iran as being part of the axis of evil. And indeed, for its part, Iran used to refer to the US as the ‘Great Satan.’

President Obama had a different approach – he tended to lecture the Saudis on human rights, and tried to reset relations with Iran.

Mr Trump has returned to castigating Iran as the villain, of supporting “unspeakable crimes.”

And while Mr Trump enjoyed the warm welcome in Saudi – “you are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible,” he was told by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt – in Iran there was celebration as a free election – something they are not too keen on in Saudi Arabia – an election in which women voted – whatever next –  saw the reformist Hassan Rouhani retain the presidency with a landslide victory.

Not everyone was impressed with the tone emanating from President Trump. To the words uttered by the Egyptian leader, he said: “I agree,” but for others watching around the world there was a degree of cynicism. There was a sense that in Europe, where Mr Trump has not gone down altogether well with Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron, there may be unease. Mr Trump may be driving an ever-bigger wedge between Europe and Saudi, Iran perhaps the winner in the eyes of leading western European politicians – excluding, that is, western politicians who like to hold Mr Trump’s hand.

Meanwhile, in Asia, it turns out that TPP is not dead. The US is no longer part of the club, but with Japan and New Zealand pushing hard, it seems that the remaining 11 nations, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are pressing ahead without the US, with China, still on the outside, too. With the US, the TPP area would have amounted to 40 per cent of global trade, without the US it is far less significant. But then neither is it trivial – and maybe with the US as a member it would have been too reliant on Uncle Sam – top heavy, perhaps.

If TPP really does happen –and it is looking highly likely – it will forge trade deals around the world as a block –  ahem, would you believe it, there are those who think it is much easier to agree favourable deals if you are part of a bigger grouping.

Who knows what this will mean for the 11 economies.  Just bear in mind, that Peru and Chile often feature at the top of any investors shopping list who is looking at Latin America, while Malaysia and Vietnam are part of the ASEAN block – one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

Population to nearest million Projected growth in 2017 according to IMF, in per cent
Japan 127 0.8
Canada 36 1.9
Australia 24 3.1
New Zealand 5 3.1
Singapore 6 2.2
Mexico 127 1.7
Peru 31 3.5
Chile 18 1.7
Vietnam 92 6.5
Malaysia 20 4.5
Brunei 0.5 -1.3

This is a great opportunity for the TPP members to develop in a way that is less dependent on the US. That is good for them, but maybe not so go for the global influence of the United States.