By Vikas Datta

Jaipur–New US President Donald Trump is certain to move the American economy towards protectionism but it is a moot point how much he will be able to reshape it given existing international commitments and institutional constraints, says leading South Korean development economist Ha-Joon Chang.

“He (Trump) will push the US economy to some form of protectionism. But I really wonder how much he can change.”

“There is more rhetoric than substance to Trump’s words… The US, under Trump, cannot break its existing obligations. He is authoritarian but he is not someone like (South Korean dictator) Gen Park and there are institutional constraints in the US,” Chang, a reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge, told IANS on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival here on Saturday.

South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang at the Jaipur Literature Festival

“The US is a member of the World Trade Organisation, has free trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Australia and cannot renege on or break its obligations

“Even renegotiating the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area) will take two to three years at least. And what if he is only a one term President. Even if he is re-elected, it will be difficult to do all he has said,” he said.

“If he raises tariffs, the American corporations will be up in arms. 35 per cent tariffs will mean that Nike shoes and I-phones will be costlier by 35 per cent. He can’t do it,” said Chang.

He noted that Trump has some plans to reshape the US Constitution but said this will also take time and the way it is framed, there will be obstacles at every point, though Trump also enjoys a Congressional majority which makes him the strongest President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Trump’s “barks are louder than his bites,” quipped Chang. (IANS)