In an utmost surprise Donald Trump has been elected President of the only surviving super power, United States (US). Not only residents of many other countries find it a bitter pill to swallow, demonstrations are also being staged in the US, one of the rare happenings in the country enjoying democratic rule of more than two centuries.
I have posted a blog some time back exploring the possible impact of 2016 elections. My bottom line was that the love/hate relationship will be driven by the foreign policy agenda of the super power. Over the last 48 hours I have been going through the global news networks as well as Pakistan to have a better understanding of the likely outcome of shift in foreign policy agenda. This brief is based on the writing of one of Pakistan’s leading brokerage house, AKD Securities.
The brokerage house believes that the US foreign policy under Trump may remain highly volatile, there is also a possibility of an overhaul in US-Pak relations. The republican's campaign rhetoric leads force Pakistanis to believe that micromanagement and unilateral actions along Pakistan's borders may ease out under Trump Rule. In this backdrop, Pakistan has done well by diversifying its foreign relations towards Russia and China's ongoing ambitions in investing heavily into Pakistan.
In line with global markets, near term volatility at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) cannot be ruled out. However, Pakistan market's correlation with regional markets has decoupled on the former's possible inclusion in the MSCI EM Index and momentum for infrastructure and economic development together driving 21%CYTD returns for the benchmark index which can be expected to continue in the medium to long term.
Pakistan has suffered the most during the incumbent government of PML-N due to the absence of full-time foreign ministers. Worst of all the two foreign policy advisors are not on the same page. Admitting that these are unchartered waters and while analysts believe that the US foreign policy under a Trump may remain volatile, there is also a possibility of an overhaul in the bilateral relationship as Pakistan has largely remained at the periphery of US interests in this region.
The republican's campaign rhetoric compels Pakistanis to believe that micromanagement and unilateral actions along Pakistan's borders may ease out under Trump. The onus would be on Pakistan to keep its western borders safe as the US pulls out of Afghanistan. As far as the current hostile situation between India and Pakistan is concerned, the US as always will likely encourage both countries to come to the negotiation table. In this backdrop, Pakistan has done well by diversifying its foreign relations towards Russia and China's ongoing ambitions in investing heavily into Pakistan.
Historically, aid flows from the US have fluctuated due to ever changing US geo-political objectives in the region. After nearly a decade of withholding assistance, inflows recommenced in 2002 and scaled up considerably in lieu of Pakistan's alliance with US on counterterrorism efforts post-9/11.
The aid appropriations have accumulated to US$19.07 billion under economic (US$11.1 billion) and military (US$7.9 billion) assistance. Additionally, Pakistan received reimbursements under CSF, forming the largest chunk of inflows with US$14 billion received since 2002. However, actual disbursements - particularly economic aid - have reportedly remained much lower, where EAD data reflects economic grants disbursed to Pakistan since FY07 at US$2.1 billion.
As per a USAID report, disbursements under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (promising US$1.5 billion annual economic support over FY10-14) as of September'15 add up to US$1.8 billion. Following developments in 2011, aid from US has tapered off where economic/security related aid appropriation to the country declined to US$423 million/ US$320 million in FY17. Post-elections, economic assistance is likely to stagnate at current levels while military aid can be considerably scaled back with CSF flows remaining absent (US$300 million yet to be paid) if recent disagreements on action against the Haqani network continue along with withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
In this backdrop, Pakistan's macroeconomic focus has been shifting towards the East as the country embraces Chinese investments and positions itself as a beneficiary of foreign direct investment under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from the world's second largest economy.
While US remains one of major destinations for Pakistani exports, the quantum has in fact declined remained to16% in FY16 as compared to 19% in FY09. To recall, Pakistan's recent request for preferential access for textile exports to US was rejected. US is likely to revisit its trade and investment ties under the new leadership, however any trade facilitation to Pakistan remains unlikely going forward.
Similarly, outlook on investment from the US remains bleak (FDI share from the US down to 2% from 23% during FY09-16), where any recovery in the same will largely remain a function of Pakistan's intrinsic business climate. Longer term risks remain in the form of stricter immigration rules that can affect remittance flows from the US that make up 13% of total inflows (already declining due to anti-money laundering laws in US).
Trump's victory can fuel expectations for rate hikes quicker-than-projected currently in the backdrop of Trump's criticism earlier of Fed's policy to hold-off rate increase this year. This entails direct implications for foreign flows to regional markets including Pakistan as was the case in CY15. In this regard, upcoming FOMC meeting in December'16 will be crucial to track changes in the Fed's outlook. On the other hand, greater volatility in global financial markets due to an uncertain US policy outlook can propel the Fed to delay a hike to next year.
In line with global markets, near term volatility at the PSX also cannot be ruled out. However, Pakistan market's correlation with regional markets has decoupled on the former's possible inclusion in the MSCI EM Index and momentum for infrastructure and economic development together driving 28%CYTD returns for the benchmark index.