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Tuesday July 10, 2018 - 15:55:31 GMT
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The Impact of Trump's Tariffs on Middle Eastern Exports

While many thought that Trump's trade war would be a phoney conflict, there is growing evidence that it may actually be the real deal.

Following months of warnings and tense negotiations, U.S. officials have finally begun to collect tariffs on an estimated $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. China has subsequently pledged to respond, while U.S. President Donald Trump is proposing a further $200 billion in tariffs if the trade war is escalated.

With Trump having also announced tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium for the EU, Mexico and Canada, the global economy is poised for a period of volatility and constricted growth.

Despite this, the impact of Trump's tariffs on Middle Eastern exports has not yet been fully explored. We'll do this in the article below, while asking whether Trump's protectionist approach will trigger a sustained decline in the global and Middle Eastern economy.

Trade Wars – How will the Middle East be Impacted?

Trade wars are challenging and unpredictable entities, while they're capable of causing disruption both domestically and abroad. So, even though Trump's protectionist policies are a fundamental part of his 'America First' vision, they're also likely to trigger an inflation rate hike in the U.S. and disrupt supply chains across a host of different industries.

From a global perspective, much of the focus to date has been placed on nations such as China, Canada and Mexico. After all, these countries have been strategically targeted by Trump's aggressive trade policies, with the latter two even sharing a border and a free trade agreement with North America.

There's no doubt that Trump's measures will impact indirectly on the Middle East, however, both in terms of this region's exports and the performance of the Dirham.

Firstly, it's important to recognise the United Arab Emirates as one of the primary exporters of aluminium to the U.S. (after Canada and Russia), while it is also the third-largest producer of this material outside China. Trade with the U.S. is therefore central to the nation's economic growth, and  there remain concerns among economists that the UAE may be next to feel the force of Trump's  protectionist outlook.

Secondly, it cannot be overlooked that China has been recognised as Dubai's primary external trade partner since 2014, with both economies increasingly reliant on the other for growth. With U.S. tariffs specifically targeting Chinese aluminium amid accusations of overcapacity and unfairly low prices, Trump's measures could have a knock on effect in terms of economic growth in the Middle East and the demand for specific exports.

With a number of gulf economies and exporters increasingly reliant on growth in China (and to a lesser extent Japan), a prolonged trade war could even trigger a longer-term decline throughout the Middle East. Not only this, but it could impact on Saudi Arabia's plans to implement its progressive Vision 2030 initiative, which relies on global imports and exports in a bid to create a truly diverse economy.

The Last Word

In the near-term, we should also expect the U.S. dollar to weaken against the backdrop of Trump's protectionism. This is a logical consequence of striving to create more competitively priced exports for U.S. firms, of course, while forex traders have also noticed increased volatility in the marketplace as negotiations have rumbled on.

Given that the Dirham (along with the majority of GCC currencies) are intrinsically pegged to the U.S. Dollar (USD), this will have further consequences throughout the Middle East. The USD has already been subdued in recent weeks, having slipped from a six-week high on March 1st and continued a downward trajectory since then.

This will continue to restrict U.S. economic growth, while also impacting directly on sentiment in the Middle East and its burgeoning markets.

With this in mind, two things are becoming increasingly clear. Firstly, there's unlikely to be any winners at all if the trade war continues, with the global economy and customers throughout the world likely to bear the brunt of this conflict.

Secondly, the impact of Trump's policies and protectionist stance will also be felt in every corner of the globe, with the Middle East one of the first regions to be hit thanks to its increasingly close partnership with China and association with North American markets.



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