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Trump’s America and Tasks for Japan

 On November 8, Donald Trump won the presidential election and became the 45th President of the United States. I first of all congratulate Mr. Trump for getting the seat of the president and also the United States for electing the next president for the country.

 We Japanese have been gazing at the TV screen in the afternoon of November 9(Japan time), and were surprised and shocked to see and hear the news of the final result of the election, namely, the victory of Mr. Trump. We were surprised because most of us have been hoping and believing that Ms. Hillary Clinton will win the election to become the next president of the United States. We were shocked because we have have been fed up to hear and see Mr. Trump’s rude and abusive language, his discriminatory attitude against minorities and foreigners, his prejudice of looking down women, and above all his violent messages to deny globalization and internationalization. From our point of view, it was simply unthinkable and intolerable for such a great country as the United States to have him as a leader.

 The presidential election of 2016 is said to have been the worst and most disgusting election of the history of the US presidential election. Many US media have described that the race between the two worst candidates has been the most nasty in the history: Trump for obvious reason as I depicted above briefly, and Clinton as the most disliked person by the public. The latter description is something hard for me to comprehend. The media has been reporting that Hillary has had several deceptive deeds such as the e-mail gate and Benghazi issue which made people susceptible about her trustfulness, and that her well prepared and seemingly flawless speech style did not capture the minds of people. Some analysts described that the very fact that she is regarded as representing the Washington establishment and guarded by the “Clinton machine” are the targets of dislike or even hatred.

 I have once had an opportunity to listen to her major speech and her subsequent debate with the audience at a plenary session of Davos meeting some years ago. Her speech was beautifully clear both in terms of contents and her language and was very persuasive and convincing. It was simply perfect and effective. Knowing this, I have difficulty of understanding why American voters do not like her way of speaking. I later learned the reason by watching her TV debate with Mr. Trump. When he was criticized of having described women with his peculiar sexual prejudice, he suddenly quoted the 

sex scandal of Bill Clinton of years ago. This was totally irrelevant to the issue on the stage. Debating with such an outrageous fellow who has no cultivated manner, I felt very sorry for Hillary for how difficult to handle the situation and yet give good impression to the audience. Hillary has had to fight all through the election with such an outrageous opponent and the crowds mostly comprised of people who are not used or trained to think things logically.

 Under such circumstances, I can imagine how much Hillary had to prepare to protect herself by flawless speeches which may have looked to audience as lacking a human touch, unlike her speech in Davos in front of a big audience comprising of global intellectuals.  On the question of e-mail gate and else which made people feel susceptible about her, she publicly admitted repeatedly that she made a mistake.  People make mistakes, but admitting them means that they will not make mistakes again. What is more important and crucial is what the candidates can do for their country. There seems to be considerable difference between the two candidates on this question.

 Mr. Trump grew up as a son of a small real estate business family. He made some success as a real estate businessman in town and made money. Aside from real estate business he enthusiastically participated to media and also political activities. When he started to challenge the presidential election this time, he was at the beginning a virtually unknown trifle candidate. However, with his strong and radical appeal, he attracted support of particularly white low income working class people, and kept wining primary elections against well established Republican political leaders and amazingly obtained the nomination of presidential candidate representing the Republican party. It is incredible that a person with no experience not only in politics but also in any public services, in military service and extremely limited knowledge on economic policies, international affairs and world history is supported by some earnest supporters to be pushed up to this position. 

 His speeches, both contents and ways of deliberation, were always controversial particularly because of his radical and outrageous assertions and attitude. Out of many such assertions, for example, building a long wall at the border to Mexico not to let illegal foreign workers, stop entry of Moslems, occupy Iraq to seize oil wells, etc. He is known to have queer sex habits and has a tendency to look down women. When one of his such recorded conversation was made public, he lost much of the support of female voters. In presidential TV debate and elsewhere, Ms.Clinton kept accusing that “Mr. Trump is simply not qualified as the president for our country.” The fact that established leaders of Republican party declared that they will not endorse Mr.Trump as a candidate for the president eloquently tells us how unqualified Mr. Trump is for the leader of the country. In short, before assessing about what the candidates can do to their country, Mr. Trump, judging from what he has been doing and saying, looks unqualified to be the president of the US. 

 In contrast, Ms. Clinton has rich experiences in public services as being a Senator and the Secretary of States among others, has a good grasp of economy and politics, has broad and profound knowledge about both domestic policy making and international affairs. She does not pretend to change the world overnight by making shocking messages or volcanic propaganda. On the contrary, she works hard to make step by step improvements to bring about major changes with time as can be seen from what she has been doing as a Senator and the State Secretary of Obama administration. From the view point of Japanese, as an important ally of the United States, Ms. Clinton is far more and incomparably better and reliable choice than Mr. Trump as the president of the United States, the country which is bound to lead the world.

 In the process of the election, however, an astonishing and frightening thing happened when we saw the news on October 28, only ten days before the voting day, that the FBI chief, Mr. James Comey, declared to reopen investigation on a newly found bunch of e-mails connoting a further suspicion ofMs.Clinton’s e-mail gate. I was shocked because this is a clear case of election interference which civilized countries dare not do in such a timing. Not surprisingly, the gap of opinion polls which was as much as 11% of between Ms.Clinton and Mr.Trump rapidly narrowed to reach just about 1% within 10 days. This land slide change must have had a critical impact on the sentiment of voters. We learned later that Mr. Comey is a staunch member of the Republican party. I wondered what the democracy in the US is like.

   On the day of the final voting, Mr.Trump has competed out Ms.Clinton in most of the heavily populated large states and acquired all the reps.against Ms.Clinton, who has been enjoying much higher support rate of opinion polls throughout the campaign period,  and thus Mr. Trump obtained the seat for the next president of the United States. This must have been a great surprise to many Americans who can think logically and can understand the economy and international relations. We, foreign observers, were also surprised and shocked. Aside from Mr.Trump’ s rampant personality, his views and proposed policies on both economy and international relations were radical and striking, and not logically integrated to bring about progress and prosperity for the US and for the world.

   For example, he kept emphasizing that he will bring back employment opportunities for American workers which have been “ripped off” and “shipped” to China and Japan.  This is incredibly shallow and emotional description of distribution of employment opportunities. Employment is provided depending on prices and quality of the products which workers produce. In order to create employment, you simply need to increase productivity or quality of goods and services. Without changes in productivity, only way to secure employment for American workers is to raise tariffs prohibitively high against foreign imports or imposes quotas. Such artificial interventions will inevitably dwarf the global market and consequently shrink the market of the US, and will victimize American workers themselves. In other words, Mr. Trumps economic proposal implies that he does not seem to understand the market system at all. It is hard to believe that such a person has a MBA diploma from University of Pennsylvania.

   Another drawback of his economic policy is the denial of international free trade agreements. He declares clearly that on the day of inauguration, he will withdraw the US from TPP(Trans Pacific Partnership) agreement. He also accuses harshly the NAFTA(North American Free Trade Agreement) as impoverishing American workers. Alas, he again discloses that he does not understand the basic economic principle of comparative advantage by which competitors specialize at what they are better than others and maximize the output of the market system by division of labor and mutual cooperation. The international institution to realize this merit is free trade agreements, and, historically the economies of countries and the world have developed taking advantage of this system.

   Still another problem is his proposal of reducing corporate income tax rate as low as 15% , and also for income tax for people. He also hinted that he would launch a huge economic stimulus package as much as 1 trillion dollars to rebuild the US infra-structure. Expecting huge profits for major corporations and bonus gains for the rich,

stock market marked a record high a few days after his victory of the election. Mr.Trump seems to justify tax reductions by expecting the saved money by corporate sector and rich people would be used to enrich domestic investment. This is too optimistic and untrue against the reality. 

   Corporations and rich people can be rich simply because they are not confined by the realm of their country. Seeking and capturing the best opportunities in the world is their build in instinct and their capability itself. Have not poor people witnessed repeatedly corporations and rich people became even richer because of their such behaviors? Has it not been the major reason why many poor people tried to deny the conventional system of the current US, and decided to vote for Mr.Trump who seems to be entirely new to the established political world? But that very supporters of Mr.Trump will be deceived and disappointed by the outcome of the market eventually. I sincerely hope that what these people did by voting for Mr.Trump would not be “self-defeating” by the end of the day.

   On the sphere of security, he criticizes Germany, Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia as not paying the cost of defense which the US military stationing there provides. He again does not seem to understand that Japan already bears more than 70% of staying costs of American force on Japan’s soil. More worrisome is his ignorance about the importance of military alliance such as Japan-US security treaty for not only for Japan but perhaps much more for the US. The fact that Japan is American ally at the other side of Pacific Ocean gives the US critical geopolitical and strategic advantage to maintain American hegemony to the rest of the world. In addition, his outrageous discriminatory attitude against Moslems and foreigners seems sadly disappointing.

   Once you sit down and think, you must be able to understand that Trump’s proposals will be all harmful eventually against his supporters. Rejecting foreign competitive products will deteriorate competitiveness of American industry because of lack of competitive stimulus. Rejecting direct investment of foreign companies deprives employment opportunities of American workers who work there. Denying international free trade agreements will shrink global market and therefore American market as well which will reduce employment opportunities for American workers. Reducing income tax rate even for the rich will expand the gap between the rich and the poor further. Huge fiscal stimulus may well push the US economy against the wall of excessive debt burden. Weakening Japan-US security alliance will decline the power and influence of America to control the world, which erodes the welfare of American population.

   While it is obvious that Mr.Trump’s policy proposals do not benefit the lower income public or even harm their interest eventually, why then many of them voted for Trump. This is the most puzzling question for us. Did they not understand what Mr.Trump proposed? Or did they have an enormous uncontrollable anger which Mr.Trump skillfully and emotionally siphoned? If they have had such an anger, the anger is directed to what?

   Thinking again as to what were the reasons why such a capable and seemingly perfect candidate, Ms.Hillary Clinton, was disliked that much by many voters, we are reminded that the single most important reason was that she is regarded as representing conventional “Washington establishment.” In addition to this, a well informed American political science professor told us recently that Hillary is viewed as one of “Limousine Liberals,” which may also explain why grass roots people cannot feel closeness with her and tend to walk away from her.

   These angry mass have been fed up and disgusted with the conventional Washington politics. In the past years, many politicians claimed to change Washington but were unsuccessful. But Mr.Trump appeared to them that he may do it because he has had no experience in Washington politics or public service itself and he is so abnormal and outrageous maverick. He may destruct the current system but may well be unable to construct anything new. Is this what the Trump supporting public wanted. Did they simply want the destruction of the conventional system, but did not seek for a better alternative for the future? What did those who voted for Trump want to pursue? This is the critical and puzzling question for us.

   Now let us think what the Trump shock means to Japan, and what are the tasks for Japan to work for. Japan’s prime minister, Mr.Shinzo Abe contacted Mr.Trump shortly after the election and made an appointment to visit him on November 17.

   Many Japanese may wish to think that the whole process and the result of the presidential election were just a “nightmare.” In other words, they may wish that there was no president Mr.Donald Trump, or even if the president is Mr.Trump, what he shouted during the election campaign were propaganda for the sake of winning the

election and not his genuine thoughts or belief.

   The reality, however, Mr. Trump is the next president for the US, and what he said to the public in the election campaign are non-erasable public commitments. After he organized his policy team, aids and experts around him will give many advice in order

to streamline his policy statements and make them more realistic. However, such polishing and amendments cannot totally erase or change the substance of his statements he made however destructive, unrealistic or illogical they may be.

   Mr. Abe and his staff or Japanese government officials try to make at most effort to give Mr.Trump more information so that he understands the problem or modify his assertions. But again, such efforts could not erase or change the basic gists of what Mr.Trump insisted in his election campaign.

   In this respect, let us think of the two worrisome questions:  namely, the US withdrawal from TPP, and possible withdrawal of US force from Japan.

   Mr. Trump declared repeatedly that the US will withdraw from TPP agreement the day he becomes the president. Since the statement is so clear and important, this will be done in January next year. The US and Japan together occupy 85% of GDP of 12 nations currently participating to the agreement. If US will be gone, Japan alone would

occupy two thirds of the total GDP of the remaining nations. With this much of proportion of Japan in the TPP without the US, the TPP has almost no merit to Japan.


   Japan, on the other hand, needs to expand her trade with free trade agreements for its economic growth. In fact, the growth strategy of “Abenomics” written in 2013 stipulates that it will enlarge the proportion of FTA trade from 20% of Japan’s total trade in 2013 to 70% in 2018.  In this plan, TPP was expected to play a large role in the growth strategy of the government. Now that TPP will not be effective, Japan may well have to seek for alternative strategy all over again.

   Currently, there are other attempts for new large scale free trade agreement such as RCEP(Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), which is led chiefly by China. TPP, which was earnestly proposed by Obama administration, had some implication of

global politics as surrounding and containing China. Japan joined it with full-fledged trust and reliance on President Obama’s initiative partly to strengthen Japan-US alliance.

   To the extent Japan regards this implication important, Japan cannot easily join the free trade agreement promoted by China to work actively in it. Similar consideration refrained Japan to join AIIB(Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank), which was also solicited by China to join. If Japan were to think working with China more closely in return to Mr.Trump’s destructive move on TPP, Japan needs to think comprehensively and deeply how to reconstruct Japan’s strategy of involving in  global politics.

   The other question relates to the issue of security, particularly the meaning of Japan-US military alliance. Mr. Trump accused Japan and Korea as not paying enough to accommodate US force on their land for their defense. He asserted repeatedly that they should pay full cost for US force to stay on their land. He said US may well withdraw their force if the host country does not pay full cost. He went on to say that they should protect themselves. They may have nuclear weapons if they think necessary to protect their countries.

   Of many striking and harsh remarks he made during the election campaign, these statements relating to security ties with allies like Japan were most serious and could be far-reaching.

    Japanese government, from prime minister, cabinet members to relevant officers, will earnestly try to make contacts with president elect Mr.Trump for days and weeks to come to build personal relations and try to offer as much explanations as possible to make him understand what have been going on between Japan and the US for recent decades and emphasize the importance of Japan US comprehensive alliance encompassing defense, economy and elsewhere. If Mr.Trump understands well and modify his earlier statements to maintain the alliance, Japan will be relieved.

   However, to the extent that his negative and destructive statements about Japan-US alliance which he spoke in public during the election campaign can not be erased, Japan also needs to prepare for what Japan can do and needs to do to rebuild its defense 

strategy all over again assuming that the US will no longer be the same ally we have been trusting in the past and also Japan may have to think of having nuclear weapons preparing for the need in the future. Such a drill, if it is only conceptual, will be a huge and unprecedented challenge for Japan to try to consider Japan in the large and profound context of global political, military and economic nexus of strategies.

   Since from the beginning of 1950s, when Asia was shaken by Korean War, Japan has been protected by the security alliance with the US, and Japan enjoyed a remarkable economic growth on the basis of unquestioned peace under the umbrella of security alliance with the US, we, Japanese may have taken all this as granted, and lost the practice, habit and mindset to think seriously and deeply on their own about the standpoint of the country itself and its choice for the future in a dynamically changing global politics, defense, alliance and else. Mr.Trump gave us a shock, which is not welcome and destructive. But the real shock he gave us may have a very important meaning of making us beware of the reality of the world both now and for the future.

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