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Letters from the Southern Man

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. 

Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.

Sane Americans Wanted

Posted by Iain on Jan. 27, 2017, 2:33 p.m. in USA

Sane Americans Wanted

What have you done, America?

Earlier this week, President Trump (still rings weirdly in my head) announced he’s building his wall.

The Foreign Ministry in China have made their strongest statement yet regarding their territorial claims over the South China Sea - and warned the US in no uncertain terms to be very careful what they now say and do.

Trump announced overnight he wants a 35% import duty on all goods (except it seems from Mexico). While that would be illegal under current international agreements and would obviously harm US workers, he is still tweeting about it and seems quite serious.

In the past 24 hours he has said he wants to bring back so called ‘black prisons’ for holding and interrogating ‘terrorists’ (and I suspect journalists will soon be reclassified as such) outside of the US. Even though under US law, torture is illegal.

In the past few minutes he announced he wants a 20% import duty on all imports from Mexico to pay for his new building project. The Mexican President abruptly cancelled the planned meeting scheduled with Trump and reiterated Mexico won’t be paying for any wall.

I was reading reports out of Mexico this week in which the Government is now suggesting they may as well withdraw from the North America Free Trade Agreement. That could simply be pre-whatever-comes-next on NAFTA posturing, but equally it might make more sense for the Mexican Government to withdraw.

Steve Bannon, one of Trump's senior advisers, has this morning called the media ‘the political opposition’. Clearly in Trump's America a free press is a threat and needs to be bullied and muzzled. Good luck with that, Trumpie.

Setting aside NAFTA, the WTO and all the free(ish) trade agreements the US is a party to, is this lunatic seriously going to wall off America economically and - at least along one border -physically? 

It’s one thing to say stuff to be elected, but, surely thinking Americans and lawmakers realise that the only chance of shared global peace and prosperity is achieved through freer trade; not building walls. Through ripping down walls of whatever variety and not through putting them up?

I have long questioned whether New Zealand has benefited through our own free trade agreements. If you look at our trade with China since we signed it, our bi-lateral trade has gone through the roof. And it has clearly benefited both peoples. If you look at our trade with Australia it too has gone through the roof with fewer barriers. Ditto with Singapore. The list goes on. Our economy has grown significantly in recent years in large part through these new trading opportunities in products and services.

I appreciate some people have been left behind I suspect in all the countries that have signed up to freer trade policies. It has happened here in NZ and in the US as well. The solution I believe lies not in retreating behind economic walls and having less free trade, but Governments everywhere preparing people through education and skills training to adapt to the new trading environments and having appropriate safety nets in place for any transition through rapidly evolving economies and technologies. In the US, like New Zealand, unemployment is actually very low. We (and they) have skills shortages. Unemployment in both countries is around 4.5%. It just doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.

Imposing tariffs and import duties isn’t going to bring back jobs that have been destroyed largely through automation or which can be made much cheaper elsewhere. It is only going to drive up living costs for many who can least afford it. The same people who, it seems, voted for Trump.

When NZ operated such a policy through the 60s and 70s it almost sent us broke. Been there, done that, witnessed the outcomes and dumped the plan. Does not work.

I appreciate in the US some of the jobs being created are part time but real wages have started growing there after the GFC put a brake on that for a number of years.

In the end I want to believe that what Trump inflicts upon this citizenry is their problem (they voted for him - well, not the popular vote of course) but his 140 character statements and their impacts on other countries like mine is really starting to trouble me.

And it seems, many Americans. 

Only this week the New York Times reported that Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook) had taken out NZ citizenship. He has held residence here for many years.

This followed on from another article earlier in the week locally and in the US about New Zealand being the new ‘utopia’ for the wealthy looking previously for a bolthole to escape an uncertain world, and more recently, Trump. 

In what Trump would likely call ‘fake news’ (possibly and rarely making a valid point) and to offer an ‘alternative fact’, the reality is Thiel took his citizenship out here a few years ago. He is an adviser to Trump so he isn’t (publicly anyway) fleeing Trump - he is actually working with him (for how long one can only wonder because Thiel strikes me as an otherwise intelligent man). 

The fact remains he is a huge fan of New Zealand, a country he has invested millions in through local IT start ups among other investments. I am pleased he was granted citizenship. Most migrants contribute far less than this guy to our economy.

He is creating jobs here and much of that product is being ‘shipped’ to the US (as a service). I wonder where he sits on Trump wanting a 35% import duty on all those software type products he is working so hard to create?

And therein lies the dilemma for so many American businesses now. 

Some will likely believe that Trump will force Congress and the Senate to push this stuff through, or, he is indeed a complete fraud who will, when push comes to shove, look his supporters in the rust belt eye and say;

‘Well, you are tremendous people, tremendous people, and I love you all, I love you all. America is a great country. I will make America great but I am the head of the Government, not the Government, at least for now. I make deals, good deals, terrific deals, the best deals, and that free trade deal with Mexico was the worst deal ever. In the history of deals, the worst ever. In making deals you cannot get everything you want. I wanted a 35% tariff on all imported goods because I love the American people. In making deals you have to compromise. I don’t like compromising because I win at everything I do. Maybe I’ll get water boarding and worse back, don’t know. I will however make America great again. But there won’t be a 35% import duty. We will build a wall and we will kick those illegals out one criminal at a t time. And we will stop ISIL..."

What happens after that, I am not sure.

In the meantime any Americans with a sense of what is just plain right in a globalised world: skills, an entrepreneurial bent or just some get up and go who feel like living in an economically stable, politically pretty dull, first world, concnected economy where we don’t much like walls; you have my number.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern man

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2 comments on this post
Jan. 28, 2017, 3:09 a.m. by John R Ball

Well said, Iain.
New Zealand immigration rules are difficult for retirees.
The temporary retirement visa is feasible its 2-year visa is too iffy to make such a major move.
In the past losing Medicare was also a factor, but now, might happen anyway?

Reply to this comment
Jan. 28, 2017, 2:01 p.m. by Rajan

Iain,
I have been your great admirer and have been enjoying your blogs for many years now. Even if I do not agree with him fully, do you think that the media is fair on its reporting. If you say that the media is fair, then I have nothing more to say! I have not seen anyone questioning the politicians (all over the world) who only are interested in their welfare. Are we not tired of these politicians who think and act if they are above everyone else. A change was necessary. I have lived and still living in countries where the politicians become rich while people face job losses amid uncertain economic climate. Even on immigration (I am an immigrant), I think countries should focus on bringing in skilled people that can contribute to the economy instead of bringing in people that cannot assimilate. As an immigrant, I try to respect the locals and their beliefs instead of expecting them to follow whatever I believe. The media and the politicians did not care about the silent majority suffering because of bad political leadership, management and open gates at the borders. Since they did not care then, why do they care now? Is it because they cannot continue their "talk only, no action" policy?

Replies to this comment

Feb. 12, 2017, 10:39 a.m. by Iain MacLeod
It is my conclusion that the media are all biased one way or another. I have, since just before the US election been trying to watch some more of Fox News (whilst pinching my nose) as well as CNN, and the BBC and Al Jazeera for two differing international perspectives. I subscribe to the New York Times (clearly no fans of Republicans) but to balance that the WSJ (no fan of Democrats). I then make up my own mind on issues. I try and see some good in Trump and want to believe he isn't a dangerous demagogue. could 50% of those that bothered to vote have been so blind to what to me was pretty obvious - he is a childish, impetuous and it seems poorly researched. In this increasingly connected world where we need to trade as openly as we can with one another he is a danger to all of us. It is in all of our interests that he is a good President because like him or loathe him he is the leader of the free world. If he was only a danger to the US I'd only echo Obama's phrase 'democracy is not a spectator sport' and if you don't get out and vote, those that do will call the shots. A very interesting article in the NYT this morning of a valley full of Californian vegetable growers who all voted for Trump thinking he wouldn't seriously deport the very (undocumented) people that they need to grow and harvest their crops. I was told (a few years ago, well before Trump) by a guy looking to move to NZ that the dairy industry in the US midwest would collapse if it wasn't for 'illegal' workers. Why is Trump not 'forcing' those without skills and jobs to move to California and fill these jobs? I'd like to think this guy is simply strutting and posturing these first few weeks and in time sanity will prevail and he and his administration will take a more reasoned approach to these major issues. I just have this awful feeling he thinks the only way to get anything done is by acting like a Dictator. Thanks for your thoughts. Regards Iain
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