World leaders brace for potential Trump resurgence

New Delhi | Updated: 16 January, 2024 3:16 pm IST
The world watches cautiously as Donald Trump's return to the White House looms.

NEW DELHI: Leaders from all corners of the world are preparing for the possibility of Donald Trump’s return to the White House. The echoes of his convincing win in the Iowa caucuses have sent ripples of concern and anticipation throughout diplomatic circles, prompting nations to reassess strategies and foster connections with key players in Trump’s orbit.

Estonia’s Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, exemplifies the subtle approach that many world leaders are adopting. Beyond engaging with White House officials, Kallas has strategically reached out to key allies of Trump, recognising the importance of addressing a spectrum of American society, including the more conservative states often aligned with the former president’s policies.

The global elite’s current meetings in Davos are sure to be influenced by the spectre of Trump’s potential return. With Biden trailing in national polls, leaders are keenly aware of the need to avoid the shocks that followed Trump’s unexpected victory in 2016. According to Bloomberg, Washington’s Embassy Row is abuzz with efforts to glean insights into Trump’s foreign policy plans, with some even attempting direct outreach to the former president.

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European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has openly labelled the prospect of Trump’s return as a “threat,” citing the lessons learned during his first term. While many in power remain discreet about their concerns, government officials worldwide are quietly expressing both fears and hopes about the potential impact across various domains.

The anxieties among US allies stem from Trump’s America First rhetoric, his threats to withdraw from NATO, and his history of implementing protectionist trade policies. Some European Union (EU) leaders are cautious about even mentioning the possibility of Trump’s return publicly, fearing that it might inadvertently contribute to its likelihood.

The situation in Ukraine, now in its third year, adds urgency to Europe’s security concerns. A Baltic official suggests that 2024 could be a tipping point, emphasising the need for proactive measures. In the Middle East, Trump’s unwavering support for Israel raises fears among EU diplomats about potential escalations in the Gaza conflict, leading to a new wave of refugees heading for Europe.

While some nations in the Global South see opportunities in Trump’s transactional approach, concerns persist among traditional US allies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who enjoyed a personal rapport with Trump, is hopeful for a favourable outcome, with the added desire that Trump selects Indian-American Vivek Ramaswamy as his vice-presidential running mate. Brazil and Italy, on the other hand, fear potential vulnerabilities in their climate and economic plans if Trump returns to power.

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China, surprisingly, anticipates little change in the fundamental trajectory of China-US relations, noting that tariffs imposed during Trump’s presidency remain in place. As per the report, despite positive signals from recent presidential meetings, Wang Yiwei of Renmin University suggests that the US containment of China persists, causing real harm.

Trade concerns extend globally, with estimates indicating that China’s economy could benefit modestly from Trump’s proposed tariffs. Conversely, the imposition of tariffs could slow US growth and employment, disproportionately affecting Canada and Mexico, fellow signatories of the USMCA trade deal.

Canada, acutely aware of the significance of the USMCA, is cautiously optimistic about navigating another Trump presidency. Mexico, drawing from past successful dealings with Trump, believes it can manage complex issues like trade and migration.

In Europe, defence and security are top priorities as governments brace for potential shifts in Russian relations, the Ukraine war, and the future of NATO. Personal ties are considered crucial in navigating Trump’s administration, as seen in Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approach to building a personal rapport with the former president.

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