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Still all the way with the USA

By Denis Bright

Still All the Way with the USA: The Appeasement Policies of Australian Leaders in the ‘America First’ Era

The Trump Administration’s ‘America First’ leadership profile in the global economy and strategic foreign policy creates immense problems across the US Global Alliance.

The federal LNP has acted predictably to appease the incoming administration.

In her speech, Ms Bishop will argue Australia and the US are like-minded partners and reaffirm that the Federal Government is prepared to “defend, and when necessary, fight for the values we share”.

Her comments come after Australia’s security experts called on the Federal Government to increase efforts to influence Mr Trump’s administration, avoiding complacency and panic.

Ms Bishop will claim the US is “an indispensable power” in the Indo-Pacific region, and call on the Trump administration to reject isolationism.

Julie’s Bishops comments carry the momentum which has been built into a strengthening of the Australia-US Alliance since 1951. The Alliance has become a mutual accord for the advancement of global capitalism. It has moved on from its strategic origins in confronting any re-emergence of Japanese militarism.

Romanticising Shared Political Commitments

The romantic rhetoric of the Australia-US Alliance is reflected in the ongoing Joint Communiqués from the formal meeting of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN). The latest communiqué was developed in Boston on 13 October 2015:

Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.

The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region.

Australia’s Lowy Institute has offered this take on staged-managed AUSMIN meetings:

AUSMIN has an important role in managing the increasingly broad-ranging alliance. But it has also come to be an annual exercise in diplomatic signalling. In the triptych – a joint press conference, a media statement and a formal communique – the US and Australia have a regular forum to send messages about the role of the alliance and their common posture in relation to the issues of the day.

In recent years, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, transnational terrorism and regional security architecture have become regular features of these formalities, which have at times a catechistic quality.

The position taken in relation to China’s extensive reclamation activities in the South China Sea in this week’s meeting has caused some commotion.

The Interpreter Online from the Lowy Institute 2015

President Trump and the Swing to Mercantilism backed by Military Might

The crude mercantilism in Donald Trump’s American First Approach removes a commitment to free trade as one of the key foundations of the US Global Alliance. This change will hurt key allies such as South Korea and Taiwan who strongly supported the formation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Financial journalist Henny Sender claims that China is likely to be the real beneficiary of President Trump’s trading initiatives. Asian countries beyond Japan would rally to China’s alternative free trading bloc (Financial Times Online 25 January 2017: Bets on Asia exporters face Trump threat and China shift in focus).

Financial commentator Martin Wolf goes further by claiming that Donald Trump’s crude mercantilism erodes the leadership of the US in international affairs.

In an amazing turn of events, it is China’s President Xi Jinping who became the arch defender of conventional economic orthodoxy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

Mr Xi recognised that globalisation was not without difficulties. But, he argued, “blaming economic globalisation for the world’s problems is inconsistent with reality“. Instead, “globalisation has powered global growth and facilitated movement of goods and capital, advances in science, technology and civilisation, and interactions among people”.

His vision matches that of the last US president to address the World Economic Forum. In 2000, President Bill Clinton argued that “we have got to reaffirm unambiguously that open markets and rules-based trade are the best engine we know of to lift living standards, reduce environmental destruction and build shared prosperity” (Martin Wolff in the Financial Times Online 25 January 2017).

To counter the enhanced the leadership profile of China and its new financial allies in Taiwan and South Korea, President Trump can offer new security dramas in Asia in the future. Opportunities abound in the maritime boundary disputes in the South China Sea and nuclear weapons programmes in North Korea (DPRK).

These US Security responses will most likely be accompanied by a distinct pro-Japanese stance in US Foreign Policy and even encouragement to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Abe Government.

Prospects for Alternative Australian Trading and Foreign Policies

Unless Australia acts decisively in defence of such consensus-building arrangements in both Asian trade and strategic relations to counter the parochialism in Donald Trump’s new Protectionism, the whole stability of our region is likely to be compromised.

Supporting even token forms of sabre rattling against China are a poor substitute for overdue blunt communiqués of the type issued by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam against the bombing of North Vietnamese cities during the Vietnam War.

The Labor Opposition can afford to be more outspoken on such issues. Paul Keating has offered some words of advice to the current generation of Labor policy makers:

In a statement released on Friday, Mr Keating warned the Australian government to reject Rex Tillerson’s declaration this week that a “signal” needed to be sent to Beijing that the construction of artificial islands in the contested region must stop and “access to those islands also is not going to be allowed”.

The remarks from the former chief of Exxon Mobil, in which he also called for regional allies “to show backup”, have set the stage for sharply increased tensions between the US and China as the Asian superpower builds up its military presence on the islands to defend against competing territorial claims from neighbouring countries.

According to Mr Keating, Mr Tillerson’s testimony to his US Senate confirmation hearing “threatens to involve Australia in war with China”. And he has urged the Australian people to “take note” and recommended the government tell the Trump administration, which will take over on January 20, “that Australia will not be part of such adventurism, just as we should have done in Iraq 15 years ago”.

Warning signs of Donald Trump’s strategic policies came during the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign:

Trump said that the United States spends too much money protecting countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia, but “we can’t afford to do it anymore.”

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper pointed out that it’s been U.S. policy for decades to prevent Japan from getting a nuclear weapon. Trump responded, “Maybe it’s going to have to be time to change, because so many people — you have Pakistan has it, you have China has it. You have so many other countries are now having it.”

Trump similarly suggested that Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weaponry in an interview with the New York Times last week.

Meanwhile, the deepening military ties between Australia and the US continue with bipartisan support.

The next rotation of US Marine Corps through Darwin will include 1 200 marines and thirteen aircrafts.

Commitment to peace should definitely be on Labor’s policy agenda before Donald Trump’s Administration talks up its first security incidents in Asia.

Such events have a momentum of their own that is linked to an ultimate commitment to regime change in both China and the DPRK. President Trump has passed leadership baton in the Indo-Pacific Region to Japan and India until more compliant political responses emerge from China and Australia.

About the author: Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    The Libs haven’t come far since the days of all the way LBJ. With Bolt’s run them over.

  2. billshaw2013

    I note Trump said China and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. No mention of Israel having them. All humanity needs now is more nuclear armed nations and we needn’t worry about climate change. We will take ourselves out along with most other life on this planet.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Trump is a conservative, as is Turnbull and May all have a similar position they will all combine to send our children off to WW3 it would be interesting to know whether or not any of them had shares in ammunition factories when they send our young to be slaughtered, supposedly in the name of religion, but the real reason will be to thin the population and firm up their corporations and those corporations owned by the global 0.1%.

  4. keerti

    australia’s posture with the usa is and has always been.. “I’ll bend over whatever you like. So far as you tell me how far to bend!”

  5. Rubio@Coast

    Keerti is so right. Now that Trump has his fingers on the nuclear trigger Australians should know where they stand when a US submarine carrying nuclear weapons enters an Australian port. The LNP could be expected to keep us in the dark but which way will Bill Shorten swing? Going down with the Alliance is not what the electorate wants in these dark times when talk of war with China is being taken seriously.

  6. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    It’s interesting that on his 2016 election campaign, Trump said America spends “too much protecting countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia”. Doesn’t Trump have significant business interests in Saudi Arabia and that is a contributing reason why Saudis are not targeted with the Muslim Ban?

  7. Heyokah

    US Submarines do not come into Australian ports. You can’t protect your assets tie up to a wharf.

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    your US overlords already control our interests so you’d be very stupid not to protect them. Now wouldn’t ya?

    Mind you, when Trump kicks the bucket, your neoliberalism is dead and so is ours.

  9. Bern

    Time for Australia to part company with old friends behaving badly like the USA, Britain and Israel in this Trump era.
    Instead of rushing towards war there is always non- alignment along with ASEAN countries.

  10. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Very true, Bern

  11. Heyokah

    Jennifer Myer-Smith,

    I should have been more clear. Most submarines are atached to a fleet of ships, including aircraft carries, ie assets. They stay outside of the ports to provide a line of defense to ships tied up to wharfs. This is a commom practice to most world navy’s.

    On a more personal note I support frees education, health care and a soical support systems for all and do no way support our current government. I do support our troops, vets, penisoners and asylum seekers.

  12. paul

    Time to take a stand Australian political leaders – Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it yet.

    Once again, the Europe and Canada voice their opinions when human decency is being disregarded but Australia does nothing. Shame.

    I will not be voting for a party at the next election that doesn’t hold world leaders to account.

  13. Maria

    Denis, thanks for your interesting article on the Trump administration and implications for Australia and Asia. It’s important that we don’t isolate ourselves from our regional Asian and middle-eastern partners.

  14. crypt0

    Just think … Once upon a time turnbull was allegedly going to lead Oz to the bright sunny uplands of an independent republic !!!
    With it’s very own head of state … no-one said anything about having our very own foreign policy though …
    Not even back then.
    And less likely than ever these days.

  15. Jasper

    Now is the hour: Free us from US policy straight jackets. Let’s make our break while emperor Trump is tweeting!

  16. Borris

    Reaction to Trump could be Australia’s get out of jail free card in defence and economic foreign policy.

  17. Leila Smith

    Timely article Denis, Australia needs to maintain its independence like New Zealand

  18. win jeavons

    So glad Julie Bishop is wil[ing to fight for our rights . Which branch of the armed forces will she serve in? Will all politicians who so love war lead the way to the front? Or are they all like the Duke of Plaza Toro, Leading from behind , letting others die to defend their sad ideals?
    It is time that the people had some say on when and where and why they should die! If these selfish souls believe in the religion they profess and carry like a banner, they must be ready for the great accounting.

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