Trump-speak shakes US stock market | Sunday Observer

Trump-speak shakes US stock market

The leader of the world’s biggest capitalist economy, a big capitalist himself who boasts about his business own “skills”, last week again made the wrong public statements, this time not merely bringing himself and his country into ridicule, but also causing a 500 points plunge in his country’s stock market and setting the stage for a global trade war with his country’s closest allies.

And if this did not demonstrate the falsity of Donald Trump’s own ‘skills’ boasts, the resignation of yet another of his closest staffers last week further bolsters his growing reputation for failure and ineptness in political management. That staffer became the fourth White House Communications head to leave post in barely 12 months of the Trump presidency. At the same time, with the wheels of the US security apparatus grinding on, Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner last week lost his high level security clearance, which is deemed essential if he is to perform his duties as Senior Adviser to the President.

Meanwhile, in many theatres of geo-politics in which once little happened without Washington’s knowledge, the world is learning – perhaps thankfully – to proceed with its own political management with the United States no longer involved decisively. In the Korean Peninsula, South Korea has accepted a historic invitation for direct and unconditional bilateral talks with ‘enemy’ North Korea and, in war-torn Syria, several regional powers and world power Russia are pulling the strings, although they have a long way to go for any sustained peace.

Closer to home, the government of Maldivian President Abdullah Yameen, already deeply mired in a costly financial credit entanglement with China, seems to have been caught in further embarrassment with the recent detection of a allegedly Maldivian owned oil tanker covertly supplying oil to North Korea violating United Nations’ economic sanctions against Pyongyang. At the behest of the US and other western powers, North Korea is beset with near-crippling economic sanctions imposed by both the UN as well as individual western powers for its stubborn initiative to build up its nuclear arsenal.

The Office of the Maldivian President last week formally denied any Maldivian flag registration for the oil tanker caught in aerial surveillance recently in a night-time mid-sea transfer of an oil shipment to a North Korean vessel. But the Japanese aerial surveillance visuals apparently clearly reveal the Maldivian registration number of the vessel. And the exiled Maldivian political opposition alliance is further charging that the sanctions-busting tanker belonged to a nephew of the Maldivian president. Doesn’t this kind of family ‘collusion’ sound familiar to Sri Lankan readers?

In Washington last week, US President Donald Trump shocked American and world audiences with his off-the-cuff remarks that this coming week would see the swift imposition of up to 25 per cent import duty on US steel and aluminium imports. The arithmetic of this intended move immediately prompted one of the biggest share market convulsions in recent history while some of America’s closest military and economic allies angrily threatened similar retaliatory import duties on their imports of US products.

While the protection of US steel manufacturing may protect up to 80,000 US jobs, the rise in steel and aluminium product costs due to the higher import duties on steel and aluminium would affect huge sectors of the economy that use steel and aluminium products. A myriad consumer products as well as industrial products will see cost rises – from computer bodies, aircraft and vehicle interiors to beverage cans and wrapping foil, for instance. Increased product costs across many sectors could threaten up to 6.5 million US jobs, according to analysts.

Even as Canada and the UK, both major steel exporters to the US, protested and threatened retaliatory trade measures, the IMF and World Trade Organisation (WTO) have quickly warned that a trade war would completely disrupt the currently stable world economy.

According to the US news media, President Trump apparently made this important tariff announcement without consulting either his own economic advisers or his party political allies in the US Congress.

Some critics in Washington speculated whether this shock announcement was yet another crude Trump ploy to distract attention from his latest policy conundrum over gun laws following last month’s shooting massacre of school students in Florida. With high school students across America for the first taking to the streets to demand new gun controls, the White House and the Republican-led US Congress are now under the biggest pressure as never before to tighten gun safety rules.

While Trump initially indicated that he may be guided by current American opinion polls showing up to 97 per cent support for some kind tightened gun laws, by yesterday, he seemed to be wavering to pressures the other way from conservative and right-wing Republicans and the US gun lobbies.

Perhaps Trump cynically gambled that under the cover of the steel tariffs storm, he could let the gun controls decision slide.

But there are now so many other things that this ever-boastful US President would want to divert attention away from. He remains the sole US head of state to be under investigation for potentially serious crimes of conspiring with his country’s biggest ‘enemy’ state (Russia). His children and at least one son-in-law are also under investigation for similar possibly treasonous behaviour. Some 100 White House staffers appointed by this President remain under the cloud of denied security clearances, manyb of them having been in service for a full year.

Both daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, both very rich people themselves, are under FBI investigation for a range of irregularities in their official capacities even as both FBI and Congress probes continue in to their possible collusion with Russian agents to ‘fix’ the last presidential election in their father’s favour.

The list of ‘alleged crimes’ and various official irregularities does not end there. More next week as we watch with fascination as the world’s greatest ever hegemonic power seems to be imploding from within. Already, the world’s sole super power has lost its influence in key geo-political theatres. Can this trend be reversed? Do we need such a hegemon? But what are the dangers of a sudden vacuum in a stable world order?

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