In Trump, we're crushed: Bleeder of the free world

8:05 pm on 5 November 2016

Analysis - If Donald Trump takes the keys to the White House in a few days, hang on for a bumpy ride - even in New Zealand.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Both candidates are making big promises: To lift the middle class, revive the economy and restore the United States to somewhere near the "greatness" the nation has apparently lost.

But how much power is actually vested in the presidency?

There are some areas where a US president can exert executive control, and others that remain almost entirely out of their control.

Yes, the US Supreme Court has a vacant post, and the president will have the executive power to sort that out. But it's one of the few areas where there is room to move.

Yes, should Mr Trump win, he would have the power to direct a full investigation into Hillary Clinton's financial affairs. He has more or less promised to do so.

Bobble head figurines of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greet Republican party supporters registering to watch the presidential debate.

Bobble head figurines of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greet Republican party supporters registering to watch the presidential debate. Photo: AFP

However, when it comes to trade the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been a subject of huge debate in this election, with both candidates now saying it will not happen.

As President, Mr Trump could step away from the TPP or any other treaty in a unilateral fashion, but in doing so it seems he would alienate a significant part of his own Senate.

Mr Trump has said many times that as president he would scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and pull out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Even though both those strategies would likely ignite a trade war, they would be entirely within a president's power.

In the US, new trade agreements like the TPP require approval from Congress, but existing ones can be single-handedly scrapped by the President.

Walking into a trade war with America's global partners is a strategy that doesn't make sense to most of corporate America, and it's one that would cost over four million jobs, possibly tipping the US into recession.

In New Zealand, the NZIER's latest report "Trumponomics" warns that a Trump presidency would be "horrible" for the New Zealand economy.

"A weaker US economy is bad for everyone," NZIER deputy John Ballingall said.

NZEIR predicted a short-term volatility in financial markets, and subsequent impacts on borrowing costs, the exchange rate and the share market as a reaction to the huge uncertainty created by a Trump presidency with a hostile attitude to international trade.

New Zealand currently exports to the US everything from flowers to fish, a trade worth more than $8 billion annually.

Trump Plaza casino in Atlanta, which closed in 2014.

Trump Plaza casino in Atlanta, which closed in 2014. Photo: AFP

"The New Zealand dollar could appreciate against the greenback in the short term if markets are concerned about future US competitiveness," Mr Ballinggal said.

"New Zealand exporters could be impacted as well", he said, "especially the meat, dairy, wine, wood and tourism sectors".

Much has been made of the global risk of having Mr Trump in charge of the computer codes used to launch a nuclear missile attack.

Even though Congress is supposed to declare war, many presidents have led military interventions without congressional approval.

With a single phone call, the US president has a largely unlimited ability to launch nuclear weapons against anyone on the planet - no Senate committees, no restraints, not a single person can legally prevent that course of action should the president wish to make it so.

Mr Trump has already well and truly raised eyebrows with US allies.

In a staggering statement he suggested the US would not come to the defence of its NATO allies unless they've paid their dues. Such a policy would surely invite further Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and unravel the international coalition that has stood with the US in its fight against Islamic extremism in the same region.

On immigration, Mr Trump's policies would pose constitutional issues for the courts.

Wholesale removal of Muslim or Mexican illegal migrants from the country runs smack into an "equal protection" argument.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speak to press after an hour of meetings ahead of Mr Trump's speech on immigration in Arizona.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speak to press after an hour of meetings ahead of Mr Trump's speech on immigration in Arizona. Photo: AFP

Even those who entered the US illegally have rights to equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment of the constitution.

But as NZIER says, if President Trump is able to fulfill even some of his campaign promises on trade and foreign policy, he will be extending a large middle finger to the rest of the world, marking out a new American isolationism, and setting up a presidency at odds with the US Congress, the Republican Party as a whole, and much of the international community.

The impact on the American people would be profound, and the impact on a small economy like New Zealand will be challenging at best.

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