Businesswise | Business risks, opportunities from the Trump presidency
Whether you care for United States (US) politics or not, if you are in business, or planning to start one, you need to keenly observe President Donald Trump's leadership and actions and assess and plan for the likely business implications.
His highly controversial, far-reaching policies and dramatic diplomatic departure from the previous Obama administration is transforming geopolitics almost by the hour.
We need to pay close attention because our leading sources of foreign exchange earnings, remittances, and tourism are heavily dependent on the US.
In addition, not only are we close neighbours and traditionally strong allies, but the US is also our largest economic trading partner, has several formal agreements and partnerships with us, and remains a dominant social and political influencer in Jamaica, among several other factors.
During Trump's first week as president, I travelled to the US to lead a training workshop for entrepreneurs and to attend several business events, including a Latino Chamber of Commerce 2017 open house, Brava Magazine's women to watch 2017 event, and participate in panel discussions on creativity in leadership and entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It was a most fascinating and opportune time to be in the US among large numbers of very diverse entrepreneurs, business leaders, college students, and professors, educators, and several others. Their responses to the current US presidency were similar to those I've noted locally, most being either fully engrossed and almost paralysed by fear or highly disengaged and frustrated with people who 'refuse to get on with their lives' post-election.
Entrepreneurs can neither afford to be paralysed with fear nor disengaged. We have to be pragmatic. The first consideration is that in the midst of the worst turmoil and crises, there are opportunities.
Already, it would appear that some Jamaicans living in the US have renewed interest in their homeland - from starting a business, to acquiring or deepening investments such as property purchases and, possibly, even returning home. It may also be likely that some are becoming more nostalgic and homesick, which may lead to increased demand for local food, drink, music, etc.
Savvy entrepreneurs will consider the likely interests and needs of those persons and how they can meet and satisfy them. This may also be a good time for companies to recruit talented Jamaicans who have benefited from useful exposure, experience, and strong connections in the US market who may now be interested in returning home.
While we won't know how viable any of these proposed opportunities are until we do further research and validation, the key point is that entrepreneurs may want to deepen connections with countrymen and women living in the US, listen keenly, and be empathetic and responsive to real needs where practical.
While it's important to stay positive and search for opportunities, we can't lose sight of the risks and threats that have emerged from and continue to evolve in the Trump presidency. For example, the uncertainty and tensions surrounding his radical and unprecedented style of leadership and his 'putting the US first and above the interests of all' ideology may destabilise US relations with several countries, including Jamaica.
The current travel ban and impending restrictions on travel privileges that may affect the movement of visitors, residents, and aspiring immigrants is likely to have considerable social and economic consequences, particularly for tourism, people wishing to vacation and study in the US, and overseas work programmes, among others.
Any move to constrict lawful immigration or non-immigrant visa privileges, or to clamp down on illegal immigrants may reduce remittances, which many people desperately rely on, and cause dislocation and hardship for families here and in the US.
We have good reason to be concerned about possible changes to existing bilateral agreements and cooperation with the US and how this may impact trade between our countries, as well as the numerous social and economic exchange and development programmes and the relationship between our countries, generally.
Ultimately, the reality is that Jamaica, generally, and many Jamaican businesses specifically, are vulnerable to economic, social, and political shocks in the USA and are likely to be adversely affected by any regressions or negative developments in either or all of those spheres.