Trump. Trade And Growth Challenges.

January 6, 2017

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The great problem with Trump’s trade policy is that it conflicts with his 4% growth target. Just on its own the 4% growth target will be challenging enough, as discussed below. However, it seems that there is confusion about the consequences of Trump’s trade policies, which will come first. Almost certainly, if Trump follows through on his stated policies they could very quickly backfire.
Richard Duncan explains:
“Trump’s Trade Policies: Good Intentions, Devastating Consequences

President-elect Trump has pledged to eliminate the US trade deficit. In fact, eliminating that deficit is at the core of his economic plan.

I have written about the harm the trade deficit has done to the United States and about the destabilizing impact it has had on the global economy in all three of my books. However, the trade deficit has amounted to $10 trillion over the last 35 years. During that time, it has completely reconfigured the global economy. At this stage, it will be very difficult to eliminate it without causing a global economic crisis and an extraordinary loss of wealth.

The latest Macro Watch video describes the undesirable – and, potentially, devastating – consequences that will arise if the Trump Administration begins to bring US trade back into balance. Here are the topics that are discussed:

  1. If the US reduces its imports, the global economy will shrink.
  1. If the US eliminates its $1 billion a day trade deficit with China, China’s economy could collapse into a depression that would severely impact all of China’s trading partners, and potentially lead to social instability within China and to military conflict between China, its neighbors and the US.
  1. If the US Current Account deficit returns to balance, the global economy will suffer from insufficient Dollar liquidity, which could cause economic stagnation or worse.
  1. A reduction of imports from low wage countries would cause US inflation to rise, which would push up US interest rates.
  1. The elimination of the Current Account deficit would cause a sharp reduction in capital inflows into the US, which would also cause US interest rates to rise.
  1. Higher interest rates would cause credit to contract and the US economy to go into recession.
  1. Higher interest rates would also cause a sharp fall in US asset prices. That, too, would cause the economy to go into recession.
  1. Higher interest rates could cause a wave of credit defaults in the US and around the world, potentially leading to a new systemic financial sector crisis.

Investors should be very worried about the consequences of the Trump Administration’s proposed trade policies.

The US trade deficits have produced an extraordinary global economic bubble. If they are now eliminated, that bubble is very likely to pop, with devastating consequences for investors – and for everyone else as well.”

Even if Trump can get through the trade policy fiasco without either damaging the economy further, or losing his credibility, the bigger challenge is going to be just simply generating growth.
Lance Roberts explains:
“Why Trump’s 4% GDP Will Remain Illusive
It’s not hard to see in the chart below that debt and growth have an inverted relationship. The more debt there is the harder it is to grow through the increasing debt burden. At some point the natural choice is to deleverage, or pay down debt. The chart below shows that this is what started to happen in 2008, hence the crisis, and the policy efforts to return again to rising debt!
This is barely working, and as the chart below shows at some point debt starts to grow faster that growth!
Then the problem becomes the amount of new debt that is needed to create GDP growth. Now 3 times the amount of debt is needed for evry unit of growth!

With over 70 million individuals currently moving into the retirement system, this demographic shift will further complicate the net drag on savings – which are integral to productive investment and the creation of an expanding economy – as well as the increased demand on welfare and healthcare programs. While Trump has proposed reforms to these systems, which are most definitely needed to keep them viable in the long-term, the near-term impact on economic growth will most definitely be felt.

The processes that fueled the economic growth over the last 30 years are now beginning to run in reverse, and when combined with the demographic shifts in the U.S., the impact could be far more immediate and prolonged than the media, economists and analysts are currently expecting.

Again, it is simply a function of math.”

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