US Imperialism Relies on Trade to Further Its Own Interests Whoever Is President
On 23 January President Trump signed a document to withdraw the US from any involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership multilateral "free trade" deal. However as Alan Kohler of The Constant Investor said, as far as trade goes, for Trump, this was a "surgical withdrawal from one deal only".
According to Kohler, the Memorandum signed by Trump on withdrawal from the TPP said "Trade with other nations is, and always will be, of paramount importance to my Administration and to me, as president of the United States".
Trump withdrew from the TPP because he thought that the United States could not completely dominate it, despite it being a largely pro-US deal. Hence his comment about Brunei having the same voting strength as the US within the TPP!
A few days after the withdrawal from the TPP trade agreement, the WTO-brokered Trade Facilitation Agreement was passed. This Agreement focuses on loosening up border and customs barriers between nation states to facilitate faster trade. The Trump-led US Government and the Chinese Government (US's main rival on the imperial stage now) were among the first countries to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Numerous capitalist economic commentators have also noted that the Muslim countries from which Trump did not suspend immigration to the US are countries where US corporations have important trade relationships.
The same is true of the relationship between the US and Mexico. While Trump raves on about building a wall to keep Mexican undocumented workers out of the US, this will be tempered in practice because undocumented workers from the US provide US business with even cheaper labour than the pitifully low legal minimum wage. Secondly the Mexican and US economies are interconnected to a greater degree than ever due to the NAFTA. For example, those US corporations like Ford that agree to assemble cars in the US rather than Mexico still rely on imported component parts some of which come from Mexico.
For all Trump's threats against China about keeping what he calls "international waters free" in the South China Sea, many of the ships from China in the South China Sea have freight which is manufactured product made in China in US corporation-owned factories, or factories sub-contracted to US corporations. One that comes to mind is Wal Mart.
China is in much the same boat, as the US is still a huge market for products of all descriptions made in China, and there is the existence of a US comprador element within the Chinese ruling class with a myriad of economic ties in the US.
The scramble between the US, China and other imperialist powers for the upper hand in capital markets and trade of material goods arises because of increasing overproduction within the world capitalist system. There are trillions of dollars floating around looking for somewhere to invest, not in the interests of the billions of poor people in the world, but in the interests of maximizing profits.
It is competition between the big powers for more space for their corporations to expand and make profit that is the problem that the capitalist world-wide system cannot escape. Trade wars and/or free trade agreements are symptoms of this as is all out war.
Impact on Australia
The situation for Australia is different than what it was in 1939 on the brink of World War 2. Then Australia both economically and politically was tied to British imperialism and with minimal economic ties to British imperialism's main rival, Germany.
In 2017 with the outbreak of war between the still dominant imperialist power, the United States, and the rising comprador imperialist power China a real possibility, Australia's situation is different.
Australia is still tied economically to the United States which is by far the largest investor of capital in Australia. Australia is strongly tied militarily and therefore politically to the United States. However, unlike in 1939, Australia's trade relations with the opposition imperial power, China, is extensive and growing at a rapid rate. It is also the case that some of the regions in Australia most ravaged by US imperialism are now the most dependent on trade with China!
South Australia is the starkest example of this.
The number one trading partner of South Australia is China. According to the Business Journal of the Advertiser (31 January 2017) two way trade with China exceeds $3.9 billion per year. The number of industry sectors dependent on trade with China is growing. The state's Minister for Industry and Trade describes South Australia's future as "joined at the hip with China".
If there is a war between the US and China, will Australia have a Prime Minister saying "the US is at war, therefore Australia is at war" following Menzies’ "Britain is at war therefore Australia is at war" and keeping loyal to the US - Australia Alliance? Certainly, some state governments of both Liberal and Labor variety are screaming for Australia to stay out of such a war for fear of their regional economies plunging in to another crisis.
Which way will the Australian people sway?
The horrors of war instigated by the US have in recent history seen staunch opposition by the people of Australia. The protests against Bush's war in Iraq in 2003 were some of the biggest ever seen in Australia.
Now is the time to raise the and popularize the demands for:
An independent Australian foreign policy!
US bases and troops out of Australia!
US keep its nose out of the South China Sea!
US continued recognition of Taiwan as part of China!
South China Sea islands dispute to be resolved through dialogue between the countries of the region!
China to respect the sovereignty of Australia with respect to investment in and trade with Australia!