Trump's about to school Xi and May in the art of the trade deal

President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington.
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President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017, in Washington.

We're in the first week of Donald Trump's presidential universe, but the contrast between Trump's "America first" protectionist rhetoric and that of other world leaders' hopes of globalization working for the many could not have been more stark.

The Trump rally had already stalled beforethe 45th president of the United States began his inauguration speech as investors sought more detail on his plans. Right now, we are completely overestimating U.S. growth next year, despite Trump's tax cuts and infrastructure spending campaign pledges, the Federal Reserve is going to have to scale back its growth and inflation expectations. Not just that, but they may have to think about cutting rates, instead of hiking twice like the vast majority of analysts expect. It seems the consensus is to wait and see, as Trump gets around to laying out his plans.

Trump's populism and his belief the European Union is a vehicle for Germany has an appeal across the pond, emboldened by Trump's victory Europe's far-right parties met over the weekend in Germany. France's Marine Le Pen hoped more nations would follow the example of Britain in leaving the European Union.

"2016 was the year the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. I am certain 2017 will be the year when the people of continental Europe wake up," Le Pen said.

Anti-establishment parties could test the euro, but the biggest threat of rising populism could be to central European currencies.

"'I don't understand why people aren't trading the central and eastern European currencies lower. They are our Pesos", Valentin Marinov, managing director and head of G10FX research at Credit Agricole, told me.

He argues that the Dutch, German, and French elections could weigh on the euro but also on the central European currencies,for the same protectionist reasons that the Mexican peso sold off in the wake of the Trump victory.

Marinov points out that the anti-EU parties are likely to make inroads, and even if they don't directly win elections, they most likely will expand their presence in parliament. This could fan fears about growing protectionism in Europe, which could spell trouble for the economies in central and eastern Europe.

Despite an inward-looking America, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Theresa May went to Davos with an altogether different message. Both were calling on business leaders to understand that globalization has not been inclusive and some people have been left behind.

"Many people feel bewildered and wonder: Whathas gone wrong with the world?" Xi said.

"As a line in an old Chinese poem goes,'Honey melons hang on bitter vines; sweet dates grow on thistles and thorns'".Suggesting nothing is perfect and adding "many of the problems troubling the world are not caused by economic globalization."

"Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from. Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible. Indeed, it runs counter to the historical trend."

Interesting thoughts from Xi for the Middle Kingdom is one of the most protectionist countries in the world.

May, while echoing the benefits of global trade, touched on many bigger 'Brexit is coming' themes, reiterating that Britain still will be part of Europe, but she also spoke of how Britain should be focusing on "developing a new Modern Industrial Strategy."

May said this new Industrial Strategy was about "creating the conditions where winners can emerge and grow. It is about backing those winners all the way to encourage them to invest in the long-term future of Britain." A more interventionist Britain is not todissimilar to Trump's America.

It's possible both Xi and Trump have fired the first salvos in a trade war. We stand to learn a great deal when Theresa May heads to Washington. May needs a strong bargaining chip for negotiations with the European Union to show that there is a world beyond the single market. What kind of deal can a post-Brexit Britain expect? If all Britain has to offer the president is a stay at Buckingham Palace and Trump insists on putting America first.

Louisa Bojesen is an anchor for Street Signs at CNBC International, based in London. You can follow her on Twitter: @louisabojesen

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