Trumped Up Trade Talk

“Sooner or later every war of trade becomes a war of blood.” – Eugene V Debs

This past week has been an interesting one in terms of international trade news. President Trump announced, via a Tweet, that he was slapping import tariffs on Chinese steel and that “trade wars are good, and easy to win“.

The ripples of this announcement are still spreading but already countries and trading blocs like Canada and the EU are considering retaliatory tariffs.

The thing is, China isn’t even a particularly major player in US steel imports. It barely factors on any of the top fives by specific products.

US Steel

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Precautionary Principles

“Cut the EU red tape choking Britain after Brexit to set the country free” – The Telegraph

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is currently moving through Parliament. The purpose of this bill is to transfer the laws currently governed by the EU into UK law so that there are no breaks or holes in legal competence once Brexit happens. Of course, there are also opportunities to make changes, big and small, to the laws being transfered as they come in and when something of this size comes through there is precious little time for detailed oversight of the process and the opportunity for some of these changes to fit ideological ends can become irresistible.

For example, last night Labour put up an amendment which would have ensured that the EU’s “precautionary principle” over environmental legislation would be protected and the Tories voted is down 313-297.


This represents the clearest sign yet that the Tories are planning a post-Brexit regulatory slash-and-burn.

It’s important to consider just what the precautionary principle is and why it is important.

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Trump Tops It

Nemo autem regere potest nisi qui et regi.
No one is able to rule unless he is also able to be ruled. – Seneca, De Ira – On Anger.


So Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.

A sentence that I hoped I’d never have to actually write in a non-fictional article.

I’ll leave much of the “what went wrong” analysis to others except to say that maybe the “centre-left” (however broadly you want or need to define it) will finally come to realise that the short term gains of triangulating towards your right-wing opponents and just banking that your left wing base support will carry you through because they have no-where else to go has hit its limits. It didn’t work for Pasok. It didn’t work for Labour. It hasn’t worked for the Democrats.

Because, of course, the base does have somewhere else to go. They can choose to simply not vote or they can vote for the charismatic but context free option. Both of these choices happened last night. (Of course, there are other factors too. There seems to have been a very significant “Urban vs Rural” split just to name one).

What’s done is done though and now we need to adjust to our new reality as best we can. Scotland will feel the impact of this vote, so we need to have a think about where and how we can react.


As with so many things, Trump has made deeply conflicted statements regarding his view of international trade agreements. He has both come out strongly against TTIP, TPP and NAFTA (mostly because Clinton was in favour) whilst also saying that post-Brexit UK would be “front of line” for a trade deal (mostly because Obama said we wouldn’t be).

For opponents of TTIP it may well be that the final nail in the coffin could come from an unlikely ‘ally’ indeed. Of course, if Trump manages to square his circle and fulfill both of his promises then independence may well be our bolthole to get away from them.

Climate Change

Trump is about to become the most powerful climate change denying leader on the face of our planet. I really do feel pity for folk in places like Florida who have voted for a series of polices which may well erase significant chunks of their state from the map.

Scotland should absolutely become the counter-example to his fossil energy expansion plans. If America is not going to be the world’s hub for renewable research, development and deployment then we should take it on (we’ll even welcome immigrant scientists and engineers who want to come and help us do it!).

We absolutely cannot sustain a fracking economy in the face of this. For a start, if Trump goes full frack then it may depress prices below the point of sustainability without subsidy. This is my warning to anyone hoping to kick the Scottish fracking can down the road till it’s safely after indy. There’s no mountain of cash for Scotland here. Turn away.


Trump has made several rather worrying comments about NATO. It looks greatly as if he will push hard for all members to raise defence spending up to the target level of 2% of GDP per annum (amongst other requirements). Right now, the UK is one of only a few member countries to do this (despite slashing spending within Scotland…but that’s a story for another time). More worryingly is Trump’s threat to hang NATO allies and even members out to dry should they “fail to pay”. I believe it is time for Scotland to revisit the discussion on our independence being predicated on NATO membership. For our own security, could it be that the EU’s proposed joint defence plans offer better security than the uncertain and unreliable ‘protection’ offered by Trump? Would Scotland be a better force for good in the world if we placed our efforts into UN Peacekeeping missions rather than by being part of an alliance built up to bulwark ourselves against a Warsaw Pact which no longer even exists?

Final Thoughts

These are, of course, the earliest of days and we’re going to have to wait to see both how President Trump differs from Candidate Trump (if, indeed, they do). Who Trump places in his cabinet (I’ve heard from friends in the States that VP Mike Pence may well be the one who does most of the day-to-day work behind the throne…except his record as governor of Indiana is far from stellar both within the economic and in social policy).

My slight hope is that Trump ends up surrounded by a very thick layer of advisors who are able to..”filter”..his outbursts and orders into something that’s a little more suitable for humans living on planet Earth. If that happens, maybe we’ll just about get through this.


Postscript:- At time of writing, Clinton is still (marginally) AHEAD of Trump in the popular vote despite Electoral College going decisively to Trump. Come on America. It’s actually quite hard to create a voting system which is even worse than FPTP for selecting a single nationwide seat but somehow you’re still clinging on to it.
(Before anyone asks, my pre-result gutfeel prediction was that Clinton would win the EC and Trump would win the Popular Vote, the exact opposite of what appears to have happened. Rant still stands.)