Donald Trump's inauguration speech should worry Modi govt as US protectionism is set to begin

At noon on January 20, Washington was grim and grey as Donald J Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States of America. Trump was in his elements as his countenance and words matched the conditions that prevailed.

His first oration as the new occupant of the White House was a condensed version of the numerous campaign speeches, though shorn of the rambling that marked them; and sharp thanks to a teleprompter.

 Donald Trumps inauguration speech should worry Modi govt as US protectionism is set to begin

President Donald Trump pumps his fist after delivering his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. PTI

The message was clear — America First. The world’s leading economy is entering a protectionist phase. It was evident that this was a message meant not just for Americans but for all others, as the first line he delivered referred to "people of the world".

It wasn’t a soaring spectacle, as the inaugurations of 2009 and 2013 had been when the former president Barack Obama spoke eloquently of his vision to the thousands gathered at the National Mall. Instead, as Obama watched on, Trump jibed at that rhetoric: "The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action."

Having created a wave of anti-establishmentarianism and anti-elitism, it was hardly surprising that Trump reprised these themes in his inaugural address, as he said, "Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost." That's your #DrainTheSwamp hashtagged homily right there.

If anyone had been expecting political correctness from Trump, it was as scant as sunlight on this gloomy afternoon. While Obama and his administration had carefully sidestepped those words, Trump referred to the threat of radical Islamic terrorism which he promised, with an inimitably Trump-like flourish, to "eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."

And just as concerns rise over an anti-immigrant sentiment impelling the new Administration, Trump refused to provide any words of succour, instead, at different times, he remarked: "We've defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own"; and "We will bring back our borders." Only the rousing cries of the crowd shouting "Build the Wall" was missing.

It was also a return to the familiar themes of global economic systems sucking wealth and employment out of America; an emotive attack on globalism that had resonated in the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan during the campaign.

"Buy American and hire American," appears to be the "two simple rules" that will govern the actions of the incoming Trump team.

This will be a far more inward-looking nation as reflected by these words: "Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families." These are matters that demand attention in world capitals including New Delhi, which as it is, is increasingly dependent on trade with the United States, especially as the Narendra Modi government seeks to boost manufacturing with Make in India. What it also means is that Indians seeking employment in America may find work visas more difficult to secure.

We’ve heard this trend of thought before; throughout the contentious 2016 campaign cycle and at Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. But what made this instance more important is that for the first time, this mantra was repeated by an American president.

Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 12:20:48 IST