Friday, November 10, 2006

Change in US Political Wind

The Democrats have had a clean sweep of the Congress and the Senate in the mid-term election in the United States, dealing a major blow to lame-duck President George W. Bush and his disastrous and unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

Many press reports in the last two days have said that the vote will have major ramifications on US policies ranging from the war on terror to trade pacts.

But there is also the view that nothing much will change, especially in Iraq. According to Singapore's BT editorial, the Democrats will still not have the necessary power to force the White House to change its policies in Iraq. First, the Democrats will not have enough votes to override a presidential veto. And second, President Bush will continue to exert enormous influence on national security issues.

While the final outcome is still unknown, it's obvious that any change in US policy will have major impact on the rest of the world. In particular, will the change in the political wind in the US have any impact on Malaysia or Singapore?

In the case of Malaysia, one clear uncertainty is the draft Free Trade Agreement with the US. The two countries started negotiations this year with the view of finalising an FTA by the end of the year and submission to the US Congress before July 2007.

There are two concerns. Media reports said a Democrat-controlled Congress is not so keen on free trade pacts as they may wipe out jobs in the US. The other concern is Malaysia's own domestic politics. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's criticisms of Malaysia's trade talks with Japan and the US as lopsided appear to have gained ground.

And in the case of Singapore, there is less direct impact following the change in the Congress. Singapore sealed its FTA with the US in 2003. The countries have made great strides since then to deepen their economic and political ties.

But Singapore will face a conundrum should President Bush order a pull-out from Iraq to help appease the Democrats on other pressing domestic issues.

Unlike Malaysia and many countries, Singapore had given its full backing to the US invasion of Iraq although the invasion was morally and unequivocally wrong. Singapore had to show its commitment to its good friend.

Will Singapore then admit that its blind support of the US war in Iraq was wrong?

No comments: