Post-Election

Tapping Into The Trump Trade Wars

Roughly 10 days into the Trump presidency, and the world is changing. Significantly. To grind that statement a but finer, the way the U.S. is interacting with the broader world is changing.

Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP). And in recent days, a 20 percent tax on imported goods was floated, with the implication that the funds would go to help pay for the wall meant to seal borders along Mexico and the U.S. That proposal has been walked back by the administration as one of several options, with the tactic still standing to levy tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.

Not all that long ago, in another scenario, the wall was going to be paid for, according to Trumpian plans, by money held ransom, after a fashion. The U.S. would have (and might we still?) use the U.S. Patriot Act to stanch remittances between the United States and Mexico until the latter advanced billions of dollars to pay for the wall. That may spell trouble for remittances. Even if such a proposal does not come to fruition, it implies that fund flows across borders, aided by payments technology, may be fair game in economic tussles. The damage would be done to economies such as Mexico, where, for instance, the peso is low versus the dollar. Should there be a tax on remittances, which has also been mentioned by Trump, might we assume that cash may make the rounds in person (i.e., when people travel back and forth between the states and Mexico)? Either way, this would hurt companies such as Western Union.

As for cross-border trade, Trump has sought to weaken the dollar, with an eye on boosting exports. That will make imports more expensive (and even more so in the advent of tariffs), which also means that the engine driving consumer spending and payments (including mobile) domestically might sputter. Should the engine sputter, retailers will have a tough time, revenue-wise. Tax cuts may offset at least some of that hesitancy.

One other fallout from the trade wars looming, of course, could come in the form of human capital. The ban on immigration that has been signed into existence already has executives at some tech firms (and other firms) up in arms about the loss of incoming talent that leads to innovation. That could have even more of an impact, reaching further than just payments volume, as innovation takes years to culminate in sea changes in how we live, work and interact with one another. The loss to the U.S. and beyond would stretch beyond dollars and cents.

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