Trump's Early International Forays as President-elect: Argentina, China, & Taiwan


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President-elect Trump & Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen
Photo Credit: 
Evan Vucci / Chiang Ying-ying - AP

                Let’s shift our gaze from solely the US and President-elect Trump, and consider some of the impacts we’re seeing on the international community. Now, it’s a point that’s been made repeatedly, but as it remains crucial to any understanding of the modern international political landscape it merits repeating: President-elect Trump’s lack of knowledge of government and international relations puts him in a painfully challenging position presently. He’s working to build his administration in advance of assuming office and reaching out, in a limited sense, to the international community. What’s making things more than a bit awkward, though, is that Trump’s ignorance of international politics and the legality of conflicts of interest is already becoming quite problematic for his would-be administration.

                Let’s start with a glance to Argentina. Trump took a congratulatory call from Argentina’s President Mauricio Marci shortly after securing the Presidency. Now, such calls are fairly common place between nations in good standing – but what’s raised more than a few eyebrows is that shortly after this call a real estate project of Trump’s (based in Buenos Aires) finally showed signs of progress after receiving governmental approval.1 The point of note here, one imagines, is that the project had previously been stuck in limbo for years.1 Now, while official accounts stress that the conversation had nothing to do with Trump’s business interests in Argentina, at least one early report from La Nacion cited a journalist claiming President-elect Trump did in fact bring up the building project.1 If the claim proves to be false, as the most recent accounts suggest, then this could well be much ado about nothing. However, given the timing of the building project’s approval after years of delays – at the very least it raises questions of whether or not Trump is already ignoring conflicts of interest.

                Of course, international pressures hardly subside there. President-elect Trump also made the international relations faux pas of speaking to the President of the Republic of China (more commonly referred to as Taiwan) – President Tsai Ing-wen.2 To the unaware, the large problem here is that the US has embarked on a ‘One China’ policy (formally recognizing only China proper, not Taiwan) since cutting formalized diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979.2 In essence, Trump speaking to Taiwan’s leader abandons policies and practices in place for nearly forty years. While Trump supporters may view this as a move meant to confirm Trump’s intentions of being a tough negotiator with Beijing, many others are more concerned with the impacts this will have on both trade and security affairs.

                Now, some may decry this assertion as an exaggeration. However, Beijing is making it clear that they are quite troubled and annoyed by Trump’s actions. What’s the evidence for this? Well – China has, through their foreign ministry, lodged a complaint with the existing US government regarding the actions of President-elect Trump.3 “According to the state news agency Xinhua, China urged the US ‘to cautiously, properly handle Taiwan issue to avoid unnecessary disturbance to Sino-US relations’.”3 Or, more bluntly: this is a significant issue. To have the foreign ministry of one of the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council reach out to object to the actions of our President-elect? It implies the President-elect understands very little of what he is doing, and it bodes poorly for the future relations between the US & China.

                What may be most disturbing is that Obama’s administration in their final days in the White House are stuck attempting to repair the diplomacy failures that Trump has unleashed.4 They’ve been attempting to smooth over relations and assure China that the ‘One China’ policy remains respected and in effect.4 However, the oddity here is that President Obama (often decried as weak and ineffective by rivals such as Trump) is the one attempting to fix Trump’s mistakes. And while Argentina may not be the top concern of many foreign policy experts in Washington, potential conflicts of interest between the leader of the free world and any country bode poorly. Add to that the aggravation and annoyance Trump has fueled in China, and one has to wonder exactly when Trump intends to take this job seriously. …and given Trump still isn’t taking most of his daily intelligence briefings – it doesn’t appear that he’ll be taking the Presidency seriously any time soon.5

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