While U.S. presidential elections are incredibly difficult to predict, we predict that the 2016 U.S. presidential election will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, with Hillary Clinton narrowly winning the presidency. A Trump presidency would worsen trade and investment relations between the U.S. and Middle East, while a Clinton presidency would result in increased cooperation and trade with the Gulf states.
Under the Obama presidency, trade channels between the U.S. and Gulf region have been wide open due to many visits by the administration and Gulf leaders. Trade in goods between US and Gulf countries hit their highest in 2015. However, little has been said by the presidential candidates about Middle Eastern trade;; Terrorism and ISIL have dominated televised debates.
Out of all presidential candidates, Clinton would be most favorable for Gulf businesses. Clinton is viewed as a natural fit by most Gulf leaders and businesses, continuing the policies left by Obama having served as Secretary of State between 2009 – 2013. Her close ties to Wall Street banks and commitment to capitalism may lead to increased trade opportunities. Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (trade agreement signed by 12 countries including US, Singapore, Mexico, and Vietnam) showcases her free trade stance. In a Clinton presidency, US would continue to take in refugees from Syria and push Arab states to take additional refugees. She supports greater cooperation with members of the GCC (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) to combat ISIL and Iran nuclear ambitions.
Donald Trump Presidency
Despite his business background, a Trump presidency would result in worsened trade relations between Middle Eastern leaders & businesses and the U.S. Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.” and said he “wasn’t a big fan” of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal and Khalaf Al Habtoor warned that a Trump presidency would lead to GCC withdrawing their investments from the US in response to his comments about Muslim refugees.