A panel of six professors packed the Guild Lounge of Northwestern University’s Scott Hall Thursday afternoon and concluded that U.S. foreign affairs might suffer under a Trump administration, but not catastrophically.
The occasion was an event held under the auspices of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at the university with experts on Mexico, China, the Middle East, immigration, and global climate change offering their perspectives.
Most gave the impression that President-Elect Donald Trump’s impact is more likely to be on domestic, rather than foreign, issues.
Panelists included Paul Gillingham on U.S. relations with Mexico, Ian Hurd on international agreements and institutions, William Hurst on relations with China, Galya Ruffer on migration and refugees, Wendy Pearlman on the Middle East, and Klaus Weber on global climate change.
Gillingham noted that the infamous “wall” proposed by Trump along the U.S.-Mexican border was “not a rational choice” as most undocumented immigrants fly into this country and then overstay their visas.
A proposed 35 percent tariff on incoming goods from Mexico would likely be passed along directly to consumers, he predicted, noting that Mexican immigrants pay more in taxes to this country than they use up in services.
Hurd said that Trump had proclaimed little in policy initiatives and that observers should pay more attention to the views of his appointees. The president-elect’s apparent friendship with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is more likely to elevate the Russian leader’s status in world affairs, he predicted, enabling him to “get what he wants in Syria and the Ukraine.”
Hurd said he was not especially concerned with an elevation in nuclear rivalry between the superpowers.
“You can feel international leadership on the part of the U.S. evaporating,” he observed.
China has domestic problems of its own that are likely to overshadow its future relationships with the United States, said Hurst, particularly with critical elections coming up in Hong Kong.
Security issues in that part of the world, in Hurst’s view, are likely to occur in Korea, Taiwan, and the South China Sea, as China rejects the idea of the United States being the world’s sole superpower.
Ruffer sees a back-tracking by Trump on the issue of mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. Like President Obama, Trump’s emphasis has appeared to have shifted to deporting only those with criminal records.
She tried to conclude her remarks, she said, on an optimistic note, “but I could not find anything.”
On the Middle East, Pearlman said that Trump’s rhetoric and claims “are quite vacillating.”
In the past, she noted, the United States has focused more on the human rights aspects of Middle East relations, while Trump’s emphasis appears to be directed more on counter-terrorism and business deals.
Weber said he thinks the direction of the United States on climate change issues is more likely to be focused on the opinions of business leaders, although he noted that a great deal of momentum has already been initiated in this country on alternatives to fossil fuels.
Weber is part of a new research group at the university, known as the Global Climate Change Governance, that builds on the university’s existing research strength in such fields as law, engineering, business, energy, and the social sciences.
Thursday’s forum was moderated by the Buffett Institute’s director, Bruce Carruthers, a sociology professor.