Malcolm Turnbull’s Visit to the White House
Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to Washington was a major success showing that, when it comes to foreign affairs, he’s one of Australia’s better Prime Ministers.
He has converted what was a problematic relationship with the US President Donald Trump into one of mutual respect.
In the early days of the Trump Presidency there were difficulties over the agreement that had been entered into by the Obama administration to take refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.
Donald Trump didn’t want to honour the agreement but Turnbull stuck to his guns and, over time, the President has become reconciled to the arrangement.
On this visit Mr Turnbull tried to reinforce the importance of the United States maintaining a prominent role in the Asia Pacific region rather than withdrawing into an isolationist ‘America First’ posture.
This appears to have worked, with the two leaders agreeing on the need for tighter sanctions against North Korea and push back against China’s greater intrusion into the region.
While the PM had some success in persuading the President to maintain the US role in the Asia Pacific region, he had less success when it came to convincing him to join the Trans Pacific Partnership and none at all in getting him to drop protectionist measures against Australian steel exports to America.
In his speech to the state Governors Mr Turnbull emphasised the need to resist protectionist pressures.
He said the 400,000 new jobs that were created in Australia last year and the country’s sustained economic growth were thanks to strong trade links with other nations.
“The challenge for us as political leaders is to ensure that the easy lure of protectionism doesn’t overtake us,” Mr Turnbull told the National Governors Association.
“I think you have to just make the case that more trade means more jobs, more investment, more exports.”
The Prime Minister stressed, however, that he did not intend to lecture his American friends.
“We’re happy to share our experiences, but we certainly don’t presume to give advice,” he said.
And despite a rising tide of isolationism, Mr Turnbull argued that the US was at its best when it was acting as a global leader.
“I know it’s fashionable to call the passing of American leadership, condemn democracy to an inexorable decline, but let me tell you that’s not what I’m hearing from our trusted partners in our part of the world.
And nor is it what the Trump administration is engraving into its most important policy statements,” Mr Turnbull said.
“American leadership in the world is in our interests but it is in yours too.
“I stand with generations of American leaders who’ve seen its global alliance network not as a burden but as a force multiplier that first and foremost has enabled American prosperity and security.
“As President Trump himself reminded us, ‘America first does not mean America alone.’”
The meeting was also attended by four of Australia’s Premiers, its two Chief Ministers and a business delegation which included Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, Anthony Pratt and Kerry Stokes.
Before returning to Australia the Prime Minister talked of the closeness between Australia and America as two nations which believed in democracy and the rule of law.
He said that the two countries had “reached a new high point in the relationship.”
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