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Trump or Clinton: Who’s the better president for our Asia-Pacific region?

President Clinton would be the safer pair of hands for trade and security in our region, experts say

Trump or Clinton: Who’s the better president for our Asia-Pacific region?

As the US votes for its 45th president, expert observers rate each candidate's prospects for our region

Trump or Clinton: Who’s the better president for our Asia-Pacific region?

AUSTRALIA, ASIA-PACIFIC

Despite growing concerns about declining American power and influence, the US still dominates the region upon which Australia has increasingly come to depend.

Therefore, the election outcome will have potentially major and enduring consequences for Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Even though many people have real and understandable doubts about Hillary Clinton’s historical baggage, inconsistency and proclivity for “misspeaking,” most serious analysts hope she wins.

The alternative is too awful, unpredictable and frankly alarming to even contemplate.

Consequently, not many people — including Australia’s foreign policy establishment, it seems — have given much thought to what happens if Trump triumphs.

Australia’s major parties seem to have a policy of not having a policy when it comes to dealing with a possible Trump presidency. The reality would — or should — force a rethink of some of the most enduring foundations of Australian foreign policy.

This is why so many of Australia’s foreign policy and strategic elites are pinning their hopes on Clinton. She wouldn’t welcome the label, but Clinton is clearly the establishment candidate and consummate insider who can be relied upon to do the right thing as far as Australia and the world is concerned.

One assumes this may include rediscovering her surprisingly lost enthusiasm for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As far as our region is concerned, most analysts will be reassured by the prospect of a Clinton presidency. She is one of the architects of the so-called “pivot”, or shift in American strategic priorities to the Asia-Pacific region and response to China’s seemingly inexorable rise.

Whether she has the will to confront an expansionist China is the big question. Whether smaller countries like Australia would want her to is another question altogether.

If we extrapolate from here, it is only a question of time before China overtakes the US on every significant measure of great power status.

Clinton may decide it is her historical destiny to reassert American primacy, not to mention defend the rules-based international order that the US has done so much to develop — if not necessarily abide by — over the last half-century.

Under such circumstances, Australia’s nightmare choice between its principal security guarantor and its most important trade partner may come one step closer. And that’s the good outcome.

Mark Beeson is the Professor of International Politics at the University of Western Australia. This is an edited version of an article originally published in The Conversation.

NEW ZEALAND

PwC’s New Zealand CEO Survey shows the US is ranked the third most important global market for Kiwi companies, with almost half of our CEOs putting it at the top of their agenda in terms of growth prospects (only marginally behind first-place Australia and China).

If the US is about to sneeze, should we be readying our tissues? That depends on who wins. In reality, each candidate has very different views on policies that would help or hinder successful free trade between the US and New Zealand.

Tariffs

NZ Verdict: Clinton

Trump’s insular America doesn’t bode well for NZ businesses hoping to increase exports to the US. Clinton has a history of fostering NZ and US relations, having signed the Wellington Declaration in 2010. She is more than just a known quantity, and her past portrays a person who encourages overseas trade.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

NZ Verdict: Dead heat

Clinton could be considered the more likely to successfully implement a large-scale agreement like TPPA, or whatever name a new free-trade policy might come under, though we can only assume neither are in favour of it today.

Exchange rates

NZ Verdict: Clinton

A Trump success would likely cause low confidence in the USD, particularly due to his obscure policies, which would disrupt New Zealand firms that export to the US.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton is more of a known quantity, and the short-term effects of her victory are unlikely to destabilise the US dollar to the same extent as Trump, if at all.

The US market

NZ Verdict: Clinton

Many of New Zealand’s products are known for their higher quality. Think manuka honey, wine and meat, so a society that is less likely to spend could affect our exporters more. The US economy has a difficult period ahead of it, although Clinton looks likely to bring a period of “business as usual” compared to Trump’s socially-disruptive policies.

Final verdict

On almost all aspects, Hillary Clinton appears to be a better president for the continued success of New Zealand trade in the US; an essential part of business for many Kiwi companies.

Anand Reddy is a PwC partner. This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in the NZ Herald

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