Which US presidential candidate is better for the Philippines? Clinton or Trump?
The context is Philippine best interests.
What do you think about it?
To get the discussion started, let me profile some of the pros, cons and top-line policy positions of both candidates as I understand them. You can correct me or clarify your own understanding. And then I’ll talk about Philippine best interests which are for sure debatable. So go ahead and debate them!
The policy debate will consider the four main topics: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), China, the Global Economy and Perspectives on the Philippines.
Donald Trump is a dynamic orator, a showman, charismatic and sharp of word and profound of decision. His background is in the real estate business where he has made billions in hotels, offices and gambling casinos, and in entertainment, where he has hosted a series of “Apprentice” reality shows where individuals compete on business acumen. He hires, and he fires. As a political leader, he has proven skilled at drawing a huge following of Americans who are tired of the same old gameplaying in Washington. He promises to tear up the rule book and make America great again.
Hillary Clinton is a woman . . . America has never had a woman president . . . smart, with a huge depth of experience in government capped by her position as Secretary of State under President Obama. She fought the early health care battles for her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has stood up for the under-privileged and human rights, and was the architect of Obama’s foreign policy, including the pivot to the Pacific. She has strong backing from the nation’s minorities, as did her husband. She argues for realistic solutions to problems, rather than rhetoric, and says she will bring unity to keep American great.
Donald Trump has history, and that history is filled with bankruptcies, womanizing, and misrepresentation of who he is (Trump University is regularly panned for being shoddy). His outsized comments during the campaign have been shocking and abrasive . . . yet they seem to speak for a lot of Americans. He both offends people and attracts them.“Ban all Muslims from coming to America. Put up a wall between the US and Mexico. Tear up the Iran agreement. If someone protests at my rally, punch them out!” He talks in generalities and big decisions; he will let his people deal with the details. He is vulnerable to charges of demagoguery and bigotry – race, religion, gender, handicap – and there is a lot of video evidence that supports this. The Democratic video files will be voluminous.
Hillary Clinton has history, and it includes her husband’s philandering while in office, huge income from speeches, some delivered to upper eschelon Wall Street firms, her use of a private e-mail server in her home, and the tragic deaths of the American ambassador and other staff in Libya. Any perceived failures of the Obama Administration will get attached to her, especially the idea that America is weaker today than before Obama because of “socialistic” domestic policies, the Iraq withdrawal, poor relations with Israel, and a stand-back approach to Russia’s incursions into the Crimea and Syria.
Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP)
Donald Trump ardently opposes both the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership (TTP) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the latter put in place under President Bill Clinton. He believes these agreements penalize American businesses and take jobs out of the US. Plus, the TTP does not protect the US against currency manipulations from nations such as Japan, which have adjusted their currency value to protect the nation’s price advantage. Trump believes China would come in the back door and take advantage of the agreement. His argument that cheaper foreign products would put Americans out of work is essentially the main Democratic argument. [Donald Trump slams Pacific free trade deal; Is It Possible Donald Trump Was Right About China and the TPP?]
Hillary Clinton opposes the current draft of the TTP because it does not properly protect American middle class interests (more jobs and higher wages) or national security interests. Like Trump, she believes the agreement does not protect the US against currency manipulations. However, she will withhold final judgment until the wording of legislation is finalized. Her view represents a change from that of her husband who put NAFTA into place, and it is a surprise considering her own promotion of trade initiatives as Secretary of State and her primary role in developing Obama’s the pivot to Asia. Some say her opposition is an election-year political expedience catering to trade unions who oppose the pact. [Why Hillary Clinton Is Right on the TPP; Hillary Clinton comes out against TPP trade deal]
Donald Trump, in the broadest sense, is an advocate of commercial conquest, not military conquest. He appears to admire China’s aggressive acquisition and building of islands for commercial purposes. His objection to China is not addition to territory, but how North Korea is managed, and China’s currency manipulations. Trump finds the stationing of US troops around the world in peaceful places such as Europe to be ridiculous. He has not opined on the US/Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) specifically, but has advocated build-up of American presence in Asia to counter Chinese power. His engagement over the islands is likely to be subordinate to a broader policy that is concerned with commercial interests. [Trump throws China, Spratlys into campaign mix; China getting nervous about a Trump presidency; China using trump to mock western democracy ].
Hillary Clinton is the architect of the Obama pivot to Asia, and clearly supports EDCA. China would prefer “anybody but Hillary”, whom they see as a hard line opponent on two fronts: human rights and infringement upon open seas. China holds the view that most US presidents bend to global realities and shrink back from confrontation. Hillary Clinton is different: “But in Clinton, China sees a politician who is demonstrably devoted to furthering a campaign to ‘contain’ China.” Furthermore, she has said that: “legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features” which suggests she is well-versed on the technical arguments in the Philippine arbitration case against Chinese claims. [Why China dreads a Hillary Clinton presidency]
Donald Trump’s policies, both domestically and globally, are so far outside the norm that economists worry greatly that he will provoke instability. In addition to a hard line on immigration (America is for Americans; ship out illegal immigrants!), he holds hard-line views toward Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and especially China that are troubling to those who want economic certainty. Here’s what The Economist observed: “A Donald Trump presidency poses a top-10 risk event that could disrupt the world economy, lead to political chaos in the U.S. and heighten security risks for the United States . . . . Electing Trump could also start a trade war, hurt trade with Mexico and be a godsend to terrorist recruiters in the Middle East.”[What Does Donald Trump’s Tough Talk on China Mean for the U.S. Economy?; The Economist rates Trump presidency among its top 10 global risks]
Hillary Clinton’s economic policies are influenced by humanitarian issues such as immigration, climate change and human rights. She is an experienced, pragmatic leader with stern views about trade, China, Russia and the players in the Middle East. She knows Wall Street and is not exactly an enemy there, as is the other Democratic Candidate, Bernie Sanders. She projects stability and old-school diplomatic leadership, with US interests foremost in mind. [Does Hillary Clinton have a better plan for the global economy than Barack Obama does?; Commentary: If elected president, I’ll level the playing field on global trade, Clinton says]
Perspectives on the Philippines
Donald Trump, making comments regarding the luxury condominium tower under construction in Manila that bears his name: “I’ve always loved the Philippines. I think it’s just a special place and Manila is one of Asia’s most spectacular cities.” He is for sure not a Philippine nationalist, though, for he is the guy who said of the Miss Universe mix-up that Miss Columbia and Miss Philippines should share the crown. His interest in the Philippines is commercial. [Trump brand; Trump Tower Manila]
Hillary Clinton’s view of the Philippines is diplomatic and political. She understands that the Philippines is in a tough contest with China over sea rights. She supports EDCA and the Philippine law-based approach to the island conflict. She visited Manila in 2011. The declaration signed during that meeting reaffirmed the Mutual Defense Treaty and stated: “Our common values, commitment to democracy and the rule of law, robust economic relationship, and strong people-to-people ties will continue to ensure that our partnership remains strong and vibrant well into the future. [Clinton on Manila Declaration (US Embassy)]
Philippine Best Interests
Donald Trump views most things through commercial or business lenses, and wants to make America great again (after Obama policies). Hillary Clinton views most things through humanitarian and political lenses, with US interests foremost in mind. She thinks America is already great and needs to keep pace with global developments.
Let me start the conversation by giving my read-out, and you can bounce off that in the discussion thread.
- Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP): The Philippines is working toward compliance with standards set forth in the agreement, but has not agreed to join because of concerns that farm producers would be disadvantaged. If the Philippines does not endorse the TPP, it doesn’t matter which US candidate is elected. If the Philippines supports a negotiated agreement that protects Philippine interests, Hillary Clinton speaks that same language.
- China: Under Trump, the Philippines would be a player on the board, with the US driving matters. Under Clinton, the Philippines would be a partner, with both nations speaking the same language. Clinton is the better candidate IF the Aquino approach is continued in the Philippines.
- Global Economy: The Philippines is fairly isolated from global economic cycles due to self-containment and OFW remittances, but certainly would be better served through stability than disruption. Clinton is the better candidate.
- Perspectives on the Philippines: Donald Trump loves every place that gives him commercial profits. Hillary Clinton respects the Philippines. Clinton is the better candidate.
All that said, if Hillary Clinton visited the Philippines, she would be welcomed as a diplomat. If Donald Trump visited the Philippines, he’d be welcomed as a rock star. Donald Trump would likely get more enthusiastic popular backing of US initiatives from the Philippines than Hillary Clinton.