It goes without saying that 2016 was the year that seemingly sturdy global structures shattered into nativist and populist sized pieces.
Last year, I wrote that we could expect our fair share of turbulence and uncertainty in 2016. Yet, 2017 no longer seems like just another year of uncertainty, it’s starting to look like we are entering the age of uncertainty.
Brexit led the way, with UK voters choosing to leave the European Union and sending shivers across the continent. Meanwhile, the year-long backdrop of the United States’ presidential campaigns, followed by the November election and Donald Trump’s victory, and the current transition period have only compounded the sense that we are witnessing the abandonment of long established U.S. electoral, presidential, and political norms and falling ever deeper into tribal politics.
However, while these two game-changing events may have headlined the year, it is in 2017 when we will really watch their full effects play out. President Donald Trump will enter office on January 20th. In anticipation of cabinet confirmation hearings, this is a helpful cheat sheet on what to expect. And for those of us concerned about Russian activities and intentions in the recent U.S. election, here’s the intelligence community’s non-classified assessment.
Across the Atlantic, the United Kingdom will formally begin the process of untangling itself from the European Union. The extent of the shifts in global order will also be tested by upcoming elections in France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, revealing the popularity of Europe’s isolationist and angry political narrative. In the meantime, uncertainty will reign large, with alliances looking shakier, fringe ideas becoming mainstream, and populations splitting increasingly down open vs. closed lines.
In Latin America, a global bright spot, we are also seeing shifts and the rewriting of regional narratives. Over the past year, Latin America’s populations mobilized against two central forces: populism and corruption. Motivated citizens made their voices heard through street protests, moving against populist candidates, and even by voting “No” on Colombia’s peace agreement.
The coming year will show just how strong these citizen-led forces have become and in which direction their newest batch of leaders will take the region. It will also reveal who—if anyone—will step in to fill the regional void left by a United States in retreat. By the end of the year, if not sooner, we should have a sense of whether China will step up into a leadership role in the region (and in the world), or if it will be the Organization of American States (OAS), Brazil, or another regional player that will take the lead on defending free trade, providing support to gang-wracked Central America, or mitigating the fallout from Venezuela’s downward spiral.
Closer to home, Mexico is also starting off its own year of uncertainty. Government officials will be anxiously awaiting how U.S. trade and immigration policies shake out, given their direct (and likely negative) effect on Mexico’s economy and citizenry. We have already seen a preview of what could come, with President-elect Trump scolding U.S. companies that invest in Mexico and Ford’s announcement that it would halt a $1.6 billion automotive plant in San Luis Potosí. While dealing with these external issues, the Mexican government will also need to address its own domestic turmoil, which will be amplified in the lead-up to the 2018 presidential elections.
Featured prominently on Mexico’s electoral examining table will be Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012-2014 reforms, with ongoing discontent at their implementation continuing to periodically spasm throughout the country. Most recently, the 20 percent rise in gasoline prices (the “gasolinazo”) has enraged citizens and sent protestors to the streets, blocking highways and even looting stores in various locations around the country.
Corruption in Mexico will also be a central issue—whether through a new scandal or revelations in an ongoing case—and citizen security will also surely make an appearance as homicide numbers continue to rise. This will all be compounded by Mexicans’ general distaste for political parties and their candidates, possibly creating a space for a less traditional candidate or at least for one with a more populist edge.
No year will ever be without its surprises, tragedies, triumphs, and special flavor of uncertainty. However, the past twelve months and the coming year seem to signal a change from unexpected events within an established structure to the loss of the entire structure itself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means less investor, political, and societal confidence, as everything and anything could suddenly end up on the table or chopping block. So time to buckle up, rewriting global norms is never a smooth ride but it will certainly be a historic one.
As always, I would love to hear what you are predicting for 2017. Please don’t hesitate to reach out over Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column first appeared on the author’s website, www.tonygarza.com. Click here to read the original posting.