FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Australia and Europe Should Rethink Their Relationship With the US

“Free trade means fair trade.”

— EU Council President Donald Tusk

“If trade stops, war starts.”

— Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba

When Zimbabwe’s President, the psychotic Mugabe, criticized his country’s judges last year for daring to permit anti-government protests to take place (in a familiar-sounding phrase he said they “paid reckless disregard to the peace of this country”) there wasn’t much tut-tutting in the Western media, and the New York Times, that bastion of establishment morality, barely mentioned it.

It is not difficult to imagine the Western media’s frenzy if President Putin referred to judges of a Russian Court in such a contemptuous manner.  They would have a wonderful time denouncing him with much high-principled pomposity and cause the world to be shocked — shocked — by such appalling behavior. Selectivity can be dangerous, but it seems that the media has woken up to the sound of alarm bells in its own democratic backyard.

Reports in US and international media indicate that the President of the United States hit a new low in spiteful animosity when he tweeted about Federal Judge James Robart that “the opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The policies of Trump America are confrontational.  Unlike Judge Robart, who said during his confirmation hearing that he would treat people with “dignity and respect,” his President treats those with whom he disagrees with scorn and contempt, and his increasingly capricious and inconsistent behavior is causing concern. For example, earlier indications that he would speedily engage in dialogue with President Putin have been negated by several of his senior appointees, including his ambassador to the UN who “offered a strong condemnation of Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council,” saying, among other things, that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”

Nobody knows which way The Donald is going to bounce next.

Since the tragi-comic Inauguration Day on 20 January it was mildly amusing to read Trump’s bizarre tweets illustrating his vulgarity and insensitivity — until it was reported on February 2 that he had been offensive to the Prime Minister of Australia a few days before.  As an Anglo-Australian I consider Trump’s insolence repugnant, and can now begin to understand a little of what Mexicans are thinking.

Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia is a man of many parts, having been a brilliant scholar, a lawyer of marked competence, and a most successful businessman. Unlike Trump, he did not inherit wealth, but achieved riches through his own ability, and he leaves Trump at the starting gate where intellect, character and principle are concerned.

He tried to play down the widely-publicized derision displayed by Trump, who delights in abusing and bullying anyone he considers can be intimidated, but although Turnbull said he wasn’t “going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President” it is obvious that he and his country have been insulted.

Mr Turnbull should reassess where Australia stands with Trump America and rethink relations, because Trump couldn’t care less about old, long-trusted allies if they might adversely affect his “America First” policy, especially as 61 percent of Americans agree wholeheartedly with his declared intention to ‘buy American and hire American.’

The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2005 and in 2016 the US exported goods worth 20 billion US dollars to Australia while some 9 billions’ worth went the other way.  Both figures are nothing compared to Australia’s trade with China and the EU, with its exports being 75 and 16 billion respectively, and imports at 47 and 37.  The message is that if Trump’s America First policy goes against Australia, there wouldn’t be much of a problem Down Under, because expansion in its trade with the Asia-Pacific region and the EU would benefit everyone but Trump, and that’s an attractive thought.

On the other side of the globe from Australia there is another Donald, the EU Council’s Polish President Donald Tusk, who is described as being quiet, unassuming and firm, and he’s another clever fellow, in spite of being on the paranoid side about Russia.  He is also “politically ruthless and pragmatic,” and has been forthright in reacting to Trump’s comments about the EU.

Trump was less than supportive of the European Union before his election,  and was especially critical of the EU’s attempts to deal decently with the flood of refugees flowing mainly from countries bombed, invaded or otherwise impacted by Washington’s covert and open military meddling.  In an interview with The Times of London he said that “the EU is going to break up [after Britain leaves — the ‘Brexit’]  . . . you watch : other countries will follow.”

Just before he was sworn in he continued to encourage collapse of the EU, declaring that Brexit was “a great thing’ because ‘people, countries, want their own identity, and the UK wanted its own identity . . . I believe others will leave.”  So yet another crassly unconstructive and most unsettling message was sent to the world, and The Donald forgot it and went off to play with his next bag of toys.

He may think that his casual insults and international fidgeting with things he doesn’t understand will be disregarded as just more erratic Trumpisms, but this is not so.  No matter how much ignorance and inconsistency are evident in his statements, they have got to receive attention because — amazingly — they may be transformed into US national policy, with unpredictable but almost certainly dire international consequences.

So now is the time for international reset, as suggested by Mr Tusk before the EU leaders’ meeting in Malta in early February.  He told his fellow Europeans that “in a world full of tension and confrontation, what is needed is courage, determination and political solidarity” in Europe and regretted that “the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.”

The way ahead will not be easy, said Donald of Europe,  but the opportunity should be taken to “use the change in the trade strategy of the US to the EU’s advantage by intensifying our talks with interested partners, while defending our interests at the same time.”

EU nations would be wise to follow the advice of Donald Tusk when resetting their joint political and economic path in the light of the erratic fandangos being performed across the Atlantic. As he observed sagaciously: “free trade means fair trade.”

The EU should pursue mutually beneficial trade deals with Asia-Pacific countries, notably China, and especially Australia.  And it should also reflect on the many advantages that would accrue from trade with Russia, while bearing in mind the wise words of the CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, in Australia on February 4 that “if trade stops, war starts.”

Trump doesn’t want any trade agreements that don’t put America First.  His slogan of “buy American and hire American” combined with crapulous bullying might sound good to some at home, but it’s the downward path to even more international confrontation.  Australia, Europe, Russia and China should avoid that by getting together, because there is no better way to establishing and maintaining peace and prosperity than pursuit of mutually beneficial trade.

More articles by:

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
Dean Baker
In Praise of Budget Deficits
Howard Lisnoff
Want Your Kids to Make it Big in the World of Elite Education in the U.S.?
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Based on Confrontation and Malevolence
John W. Whitehead
Pity the Nation: War Spending is Bankrupting America
Priti Gulati Cox
“Maria! Maria! It Was Maria That Destroyed Us!” The Human Story
Missy Comley Beattie
On Our Knees
Mike Garrity – Carole King
A Landscape Lewis and Clark Would Recognize is Under Threat
Robert Fantina
The Media-Created Front Runners
Tom Clifford
Bloody Sunday and the Charging of Soldier F
Ron Jacobs
All the Livelong Day      
Christopher Brauchli
Banking, Wells Fargo-Style
Jeff Mackler
After Week-Long Strike, Oakland Teachers’ Contract Falls Short
Chuck Collins
Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism!
Binoy Kampmark
Grounding Boeing
James Munson
Why Are We Still Sycophants?
Jill Richardson
Politicians Are Finally Catching Up on Marijuana
Warren Alan Tidwell
Disasters Don’t Discriminate, But Disaster Recovery Does
Robert Koehler
Artifial Morality
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Goodenough Island in MacArthur’s Wake
Alex McDonald
U.S. Iran Policy: What is Great?
Tracey L. Rogers
Stop Making Women Apologize
John Sarbanes – Michael Brune
To Clean Up the Planet, Clean Up DC First
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail