In November this year, incumbent US president Barack Obama of the Democratic Party will face off versus the standard-bearer of the Republican Party after the latter goes through its primaries.

Obama (always) on the stump

The front-running Republicans include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former senator from

Mitt Romney

Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.  A distant third is Newt Gingrinch, former Speaker of the House and representative from Georgia.

Obama is running for a second and last term while the Republicans, who have control over Congress, seeks control over the White House.

My students at the University of the Philippines have started asking me how the US elections could possibly affect the Philippines.  I recall being a speaker in a symposium organized to study the impact of the unprecedented election of Obama to the White House in 2008.

My answer then was there will no major changes in US policy vis-a-vis the Philippines  notwithstanding Obama’s election.  For the 2012 elections, my answer is the same.

Democrats and Republicans may have significant differences over domestic policy and this is quite evident as the US tries to recover

Rick Santorum

from the Great Recession.  Republicans insist on cuts in government spending plus cut on taxes on upper income groups.  Democrats may compromise on spending cuts but will not give in on tax cuts for the rich.

However, there is a bipartisan consensus regarding US foreign policy.  And that is to protect American interests and stand by core American allies (such as the North Atlantic Organization) and to prevent the strengthening of rival powers.

John Mearsheimer, an international security expert, argued that no state can attain global hegemon status in the post-Cold War period.  At best, it can be a regional hegemon.  And it could frustrate hegemonic ambitions of another state in another region.  As the US is already hegemonic in the Western hemisphere and its allies are hegemonic in Europe, the most apparent area of contention is Asia and the hegemon to be frustrated is China.  

In this sense, the US has shifted (at the moment) from a war on terror-centered doctrine to an older competition with states doctrine. 

Here, the US has to deal with problems it did not have before.  The Great Recession has reduced the resources available for the US government to achieve its foreign policy and military objectives in the Asia Pacific region.  In addition, it also has to deal with the unique problem of being heavily indebted to its perceived number 1 rival.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

How does the Philippines figure in all these?  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must have been perceived as a not-too-reliable an ally by the US.  First, she withdrew a token Philippine force in Iraq in 2004 for politically expedient reasons at the home front.  Second, she played heavy footsie with the Chinese–entering into many economic and investment agreements and entertaining visits from Chinese military officials.  Her government even entered into joint seismic survey arrangements with China and Vietnam within the disputed Spratly Islands group.

That now seems to be water under the bridge.  If Arroyo tilted towards the Chinese, President Noynoy Aquino is clearly sympathetic to the American cause.  

President Noynoy Aquino

The current cause of worry for the Philippines is the adverse impact of the economic slowdown in the US and Europe on the country’s electronic exports.  Economic experts are of the opinion that our exports will recover to previous levels only if the Western economies.  Others believe that our electronic exports may not the ones needed abroad–like tablet screens?

Officials of the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry pooh-poohed fears raised over proposed  US legislation that will discourage outsourcing and create jobs within the US.  They believed that US multinationals will oppose the proposal since outsourcing is a cost-cutting measure. 

Wells Fargo

Their optimism is justified by the decision of Wells Fargo, the 2nd largest bank in the US, to set up a BPO center in Taguig City.

To sum up, I don’t think the coming US elections will have any significant impact on the Philippines.


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