Till Donald Trump emerged as the Republican Party nominee in the 2016 US Presidential elections, most Indians perhaps didn’t even know this name. The only other Donald they knew well from the American dreamland was Donald, the duck. Today, that isn’t the case. With only hours left for the US electorate to choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump is a familiar face in India too.
For most of us, Trump is this suit-clad businessman-turned-TV producer-turned-politician who has a reputation of being an arrogant and indefatigable arguer, a stereotypical tax evading businessman, not really known to treat women with respect and an American version of the ‘son of the soil’ politician we see in Indian states — someone who despises everything that is not American. In short, a perfect specimen of a bully in American flicks that no one wants to associate with, forget accepting as their chief commander. But there are chances that Trump could spring a surprise victory over Clinton.
What does India mean for Trump then and vice versa? More than once, India has figured in Trump’s pre-election rhetoric in the same breath as China and Mexico, mostly in the context of job outsourcing and on the threat of immigrants crowding out the US job market. Just yesterday, Trump blamed India and China for the ‘greatest job theft’ in US.
"America has lost 70,000 factories since China entered the World Trade Organisation, another Bill and Hillary backed disaster. We are living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world,” Trump said in Tampa, Florida yesterday. "Goodrich Lighting Systems laid off 255 workers and moved their jobs to India. Baxter Health Care Corporation laid off 199 workers and moved their jobs to Singapore. Essilor Laboratories laid off 181 workers and moved their jobs, surprise, to Mexico. It's getting worse and worse and worse," he added.
‘Theft’ is a wrong word for Trump to use here, if not an outrageous insult to thousands of Indian professionals for whom American companies have reached out for cheap labour. If no American company wanted Indians to be part of their workforce, no Indian would have entered US soil. The fact is that no one ‘steals’ jobs in the US, but it is purely a play of supply and demand for reasons of efficiency and cost saving. In other words, as much as Indians have benefited from US jobs, US companies too have gained from accessing cheap labour from India.
It’s a give and take deal
Seen in this context, “job theft” is the most inappropriate and irresponsible world a US presidential candidate could use referring to the ‘immigrant issue’ and tells the Indio-US professionals what is in store if Trump wins.
Beyond Trump, why would the US which is eight times bigger than the Indian GDP worry about India? The reason lies in India’s demographic power and gradual emergence as a major economic power. Trump himself has agreed in an earlier speech saying, “India is doing great”, although how much of it he really meant is doubtful, beyond appeasing the Indo-American community ahead of the crucial polls.
Given Trump’s policies, he would not want India to continue be ‘great’ at least when it comes to jobs where Indian professionals compete with their US counterparts. “They are taking our jobs. China is taking our jobs. Japan is taking our jobs. India is taking our jobs. It is not going to happen anymore, folks!” Trump said in Columbia in February this year.
India vs US
At 7 percent growth rate and by unlocking domestic potentials, India has the power to emerge as an economic power globally over the next two decades, a fact that most economic experts agree on. It is already a giant in the software sector and the country is progressing rapidly in the e-commerce space. The on-going reforms in the financial sector and tax regime could fuel growth. In a slowing world, India’s chances are brighter than the rest even if it manages a 7 percent growth over the next two decades.
Trump knows India potential (also reflected in his interests to strike business deals with local developers) and hence the India talks. Rather, he knows the threat posed by Indians to American interests.
Trump’s anti-immigrant stand, coupled with a high dose of jingoism, is a dangerous mix for non-Americans, especially Indians and Chinese workers. His victory in the elections will not be good news for Indian workers.
Trump’s trump cards in this poll--‘Make America great again’— means doing everything possible to save the interests of Americans no matter what happens to immigrant workers.
The businessman-turned politician has already indicated that he will rethink on the H-1B visa if he comes to power and will drastically cut down taxes for American businesses that will give those firms edge over foreign competitors. Trump believes that America’s immigration policy puts the interests of other nations first than the local citizens. He is against cheap ‘labour and open borders’.
The bottom line is that Trump isn’t a great believer of offering a level-playing field to local and foreign firms. Trump’s ‘job theft’ remark is a dumb act, an insult to Indian workers. The last thing any Indian worker in US should hope for is his victory in this election.
(Correcting an error in the second line)