Never in the recent history did any American president-elect evoke such widespread global fears and scepticism as Donald Trump. As the maverick billionaire prepares to take oath as the 45th President of United States after pulling off a highly improbable election victory, there is a sense of uncertainty in the air. Be it international trade agreements, immigration policy, tax administration or fighting global terror, Team Trump may attempt a radical departure from the past. However, it is difficult to say how much of his campaign rhetoric on all these key issues would actually be translated into policies. For Indians, who have been dominating the technology sector in America, the biggest fear is over the imminent restrictions on H1-B visas in the name of ‘America First’ policy. Tighter immigration laws to protect jobs for blue collared Americans was one of Trump’s key campaign themes. Even before the inauguration ceremony, a Bill has been re-introduced in the US Congress proposing key changes in the H1-B programme, including raising minimum salary limit and removing Master’s Degree exemption, to check work visa abuse. Typically, over 86% of H1-B visas issued for technology firms is used to hire IT professionals from India. These curbs could not have come at a more inappropriate time for the Indian IT sector, which is already under pressure following muted growth and downward revision of revenue forecast. The choice of Senator Jeff Sessions, a strong advocate of tighter immigration laws, as the next attorney-general gives indication of tough days ahead for Indian technology companies for whom America remains the biggest export market. However, it must be noted that over the last five years, the Indian IT sector has created over 4.11 lakh direct jobs in the US and contributed around $20 billion to local taxes.
Given the visceral concoction of alarmist xenophobia and economic protectionism that marked Trump’s campaign, many believe that the essence of American values–pluralism, liberal, free and open democracy—could come under attack in the days ahead. From an initial talk of ‘complete ban’ to a later modification to ‘extreme vetting’ on Muslim immigrants, Trump has raised fears of deepening divide. The Middle East and other trouble spots are unsure of what is in store for them under Trump’s presidency. Trump made several radical promises during his campaign —deportation of illegal immigrants, construction of wall on border with Mexico, reviewing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, scrapping Obamacare and punishing China for unfair trade practices. Given the checks and balances in the system and limitations of the office of the President, it remains to be seen how many of them can actually be implemented. As Obama, talking about his successor, put it “White House has a way of waking you up.”