US & Canada

Trump budget: Global losers of 'America First' plan

Donald Trump waves as he crosses the South Lawn of the White House to board Marine One, 2 March 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump has been warned that cuts to foreign aid could threaten US national security

US President Donald Trump has unveiled a $1tn (£0.81tn) budget proposal which lays out steep cuts in favour of boosting military spending and investment in his proposed border wall with Mexico.

The "America First" budget, which must be approved by Congress, has received criticism from both Democrats and Republicans over cuts to domestic services and local programmes.

The proposal, which is limited to a $1tn portion of the $4tn annual federal budget for US agencies and departments, has been produced with "safety" as its "number one priority", Mr Trump tweeted.

But what are the wider implications of Mr Trump's plan and what does his so-called "skinny budget" mean for those outside the US?

Where Trump budget cuts will hit hardest

'Drain the swamp' to hit swamp dwellers

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The "America First" budget will need to be approved by Congress

Military assistance

Mr Trump's proposed changes to US federal government spending are in keeping with his promise to put America first.

His budget plan, released on Thursday, would shift some of the country's foreign military assistance from grants to loans "in order to reduce costs for the US taxpayer". This, his report says, would allow nations to purchase American weapons with US assistance "on a repayable basis".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Only Israel is guaranteed to keep its annual aid package of $3.1bn (£2.5bn)

Under the current proposal, funding for both the State Department and USAID (US Agency for International Development) would be cut.

The departments, which between them provide funds for everything from the diplomatic corps to fighting poverty and promoting human rights in foreign countries, face a cut of about 28%.

The latest State Department figures for overseas military financing show that in the financial year 2015-16, the majority of funding went to Israel ($3.1bn; £2.5bn) and Egypt ($1.3bn; £1bn). Next on the list were Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tunisia, Yemen and Colombia.

Only Israel is guaranteed to keep its current annual aid package based on Mr Trump's refinancing plan.

Former diplomats and military officials have said that it is a fundamental flaw to cut the State Department because diplomacy and development are essential for reducing the instability out of which threats grow, and for helping to convert battlefield victories into sustainable peace.

Reaction:

"I do not support the proposed 28% cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement, adding: "These programmes are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America's ability to keep our citizens safe."

Foreign aid and financing

Foreign aid would be slashed, as would money distributed to the UN and to multilateral development banks. This includes the World Bank, whose aim is to help promote economic growth in developing countries and to reduce poverty.

The move would cut funding for such institutions by about $650m (£526m) over three years, compared to commitments made by the previous administration.

However, even with the proposed reduction, the US would retain its current status as the largest contributor.

In February, former US assistant treasury secretary, Clay Lowery, said that multilateral development banks provide support to countries on the front line for receiving refugees, such as Turkey and Jordan.

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Media caption'No more capacity' for Syrian refugees in Turkey

According to a recent World Bank report, Africa received $9.3bn (£7.5bn) of approved loans for 109 projects in the 2016 fiscal year. The Bank also approved $7.5bn (£6bn) for 41 projects in the East Asia region over the same period.

Reaction:

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the cuts to his own department. Speaking in Japan on Thursday, he said the level of State Department spending was "simply not sustainable", adding that he accepted the "challenge".

Peacekeeping missions

Mr Trump's plan includes a reduction in funding to UN and affiliated peacekeeping agencies. This, the report says, is to "rein in costs" and to "share the funding burden more fairly among members".

Although no exact figure is specified, the amount that the US contributes to the UN budget would be capped at 25%. The US currently provides 28% of the UN's peacekeeping budget and is the largest single contributor.

When it comes to the distribution of UN peacekeeping operations, Africa tops the list with Ethiopia receiving the most support.

The UN has warned that Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen are currently at risk of extreme hunger and famine. The organisation said the cause was largely the result of conflict and war.

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Media captionHospitals are seeing children with severe dehydration

Reaction:

The French Ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, was among those vocal in expressing concerns about a decrease in US funding, saying even the perception that America was in retreat from the international community could lead to further instability.

Climate change

Programmes that Mr Trump does not agree with, such as climate change and clean energy research, would be dropped from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the energy department.

The initiatives under threat were set up with the intention of bringing the US into line with its Paris Agreement climate deal obligations.

The EPA budget would be reduced by about 31%, or nearly $2.6bn (£2bn), one of the biggest cuts in the president's proposal.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Trump's budget would eliminate climate change and clean energy research programmes

The budget "fulfils the president's pledge to cease payments to the UN climate change programmes by eliminating US funding related to the Green Climate Fund (GCF)," the budget report said.

In January Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, gave an extra half a billion dollars to the UN's GCF. The South Korea-based fund was established to help nations invest in clean energy and green technology with the goal of keeping the planet's temperature increase below 2 degrees C.

The 10 countries likely to be most severely affected by climate change, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), are the Philippines, Vietnam, Nigeria, Haiti, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Malawi, Fiji, Sudan and Japan.

Reaction:

"As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We're not spending money on that anymore," Mr Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney said on Thursday. "We consider that to be a waste of your money."

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