viernes, 4 de noviembre de 2016

Opinamos en el Buenos Aires Herald: "Donald, Hillary and their potential impact on Argentina"

Buenos Aires Herald

In four days’ time, the world will be watching as the United States elects its new president — but how will the result affect this country?

With only four days until the US presidential election, the 10-point lead Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton once held over Republican nominee Donald Trump has evaporated into a neck-and-neck race in the polls. And while the uncertainty over the future direction of the country has started to alarm global partners, it also could mark a stark turning-point for US relations with Argentina and the Latin American region.
Long considered the backyard of the United States, with many controversial interventions overshadowing relations, interchanging Democratic and Republican administrations have many times offered similar foreign policies approaches toward Latin America, though with slight variations across party lines.
But this is no ordinary election. If Clinton is elected, experts believe it would represent mostly a continuation of current President Barack Obama’s policies toward the region — the reintroduction of diplomatic relations with Cuba, support for the Colombian peace process with FARC guerrillas and the promotion of further integration of trade accords — with the result being a more assertive foreign policy in Latin America.
However, if Trump is elected, the region could suddenly be facing an inward looking candidate who has made outwardly racist and xenophobic attacks against Hispanics and Mexicans and threatened to pull out of joint trade accords. Frankly, a man with a “my way or the highway” position on most issues, take it or leave it.

Implications for the region

While it’s difficult to predict what the future policy of either US administration would exactly entail, the Herald talked with a multitude of US-Latin American foreign policy experts and former high-level government officials from both the White House and Pink House in order to discover what a future Trump or Clinton administration could mean for the region.
“The fundamental difference between the two candidates is Trump would make the US more isolationist and Clinton would be a key player in building an international order — this will have real implications for Latin America,” Daniel Restrepo, the White House’s former Senior Adviser for Latin American Affairs for the Obama administration told the Herald.
Restrepo considered that Trump has a very simplistic view of business transactions and that his approach would have an immediate impact on the trade agreements between the regions. But at the same time, he stressed, it still wouldn’t be a cakewalk for a new Democratic administration in the south.
“The politics of trade will be difficult regardless, due to the current political climate where there is more scepticism of trade deals,” Restrepo said.
Since taking office last year, President Mauricio Macri has made a clear effort to cultivate a closer relationship with the United States, with the highlight being Obama’s visit to Argentina last March, marking a new friendship and closer relationship between the two countries. The Argentine head of state has even showed a willingness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal promoted by the United States to lower tariff barriers to trade.
But the wave of protectionist fervour — not only in the United States, but also in other countries such as Britain, which recently left the European Union — has influenced the US election greatly. While Trump has consistently argued against trade agreements such as NAFTA (North American Trade Agreement), and the TPP (Trade Pacific Partnership), calling for a renegotiating of the trade deals.
Clinton — amid growing pressure from former rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren — has followed, withdrawing her support for the TPP.
Despite the political climate, the Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies Matthew Carnes is confident that if Clinton were elected she would continue expanding trade agreements with the region.
“Hillary would be a continuation of the Obama administration, committed to expanding trade connections with the region with a strong vision of the importance of trade in the hemisphere,” he explained.
In a Wikileaks document recently released from the so-called Podesta email files, it revealed that in Clinton’s infamous private speeches to Goldman Sachs, she had told the bank employees that she “dreamed of a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” a markedly different position from her more recent comments.
Trump, at the same time, has communicated a radically different approach to other areas, threatening to cut off funding to multilateral organizations such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It’s a policy which could potentially have a major effect on multilateral organizations which provides financial assistance to Latin American countries and Argentina, such as the OAS (Organization of American States), IMF (International Monetary Fund), and World Bank.
Yet Carnes is confident the US Congress would limit how much Trump could do.
“In the short term he could cut funding to these organizations, but at the end of the day he would have to work with Congress, and main-stream Republicans and Democrats would be against these policies,” explained Carnes.

Anti-Hispanic rhetoric

Another factor often highlighted by experts, one which could affect relations between the region’s relations with a future Trump administration, is the candidate’s controversial rhetoric against Hispanics and more specifically, Mexicans.
“His proposal to deport eight million Hispanic immigrants (from the US), to build a wall between the US and Mexico — this will create a feeling of rejection and anti-Americanism will grow in (wider) society,” historian Leandro Morgenfeld, an expert on US-Argentine foreign relations, told the Herald.
He recalled how after President George W. Bush had decided to invade Iraq 2003, the US was strongly criticised by several Latin American countries throughout the region. Two years later, this culminated in a huge protest during the Summit of Americas held in Mar del Plata, aimed at Bush and the US-sponsored FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) agreement. The protest was led most vocally by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Bolivian President Evo Morales and famously, late former Argentine president Néstor Kirchner, who delivered an aggressive speech laced with criticism.
Carnes anticipated that any anti-Trump feeling that could emerge after the election would also mean Latin American countries would maybe be less likely to conduct business with the US.
“(Mexican President Enrique) Peña Nieto suffered after he invited him (Trump). There would be a desire not to negotiate with him because of this political aspect,” said Carnes, a Georgetown professor.
In an unprecedented move, both Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and President Mauricio Macri have publicly demonstrated their preference for Clinton over Trump during the campaign. Malcorra, in particular, has voiced her “concerns” over the Republican candidate’s rhetoric and statements on the region. Macri, meanwhile, reportedly told Bill Clinton during the G20 conference in Hangzhou, China last August, that he expected to see him next year as the “first man.”
Malcorra though has backtracked a little. She admitted last Wednesday — after new polls showed the race for the White House tightening — that if Trump were to win, they would just have to “adapt.”
In an interview with the Herald, former Foreign minister Jorge Taiana preached caution too, saying it was difficult to predict what Trump’s Latin American policy would be exactly, despite his infamous statements.
“While he mentions Mexico, it doesn’t appear that Latin America is really on his radar. It will most likely be affected more by decisions he makes with other major countries such as Russia or China,” Taiana said.
The current president of the Mercosur regional bloc’s Parliament said that he believed that in spite of the Republican candidates’ words, he would be limited by the US establishment, Congress and so-called “special interests.”

Neo-conservative restoration

For former Argentine ambassador to the United States, Cecilia Nahón, a Clinton victory on November 8 would be like a third term for the Obama administration, in contrast to the ongoing “neo-conservative” restoration in Latin America.
“The doors would be more open to the United States to advance its interests in the region at the expense of Argentina and other countries,” she told the Herald.
The former ambassador, who is currently a professor at the Washington DC-based American university, explained that despite the differences posed by both administrations, the US would continue to follow a foreign policy dominated by its major corporations and industrial-military complex.
“This is why it’s an error to seek salvation or demons in US foreign policy — it is defined by their interests and it is our obligation as Argentines and Latin Americans to defend our own while agreeing to mutual benefitting agreements without sacrificing our identity and necessities,” she said.


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