Australia US relations have always been perceived as strong and binding, but never the topic of speculation. That all changed recently in the space of one phone call. Now Australian politicians and the PM himself are sitting a little uneasily regarding the new dynamic and seeming shift with President Trump in charge.
This isn’t a political blog, however it would be remiss to ignore the recent proceedings without commenting. After all, it is big news on all fronts and a potential wake-up call for Australia. When Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, picked up the phone to call President Trump he probably didn’t expect the response he got. The newly sworn in President didn’t hold back on his criticism of a deal struck between the Obama administration and Australia to relocate over 1000 refugees to the US. In fact, Trump called it a ‘dumb deal’ and stated he would be investigating it further.
Rumors circulated that Trump ended the phone call by hanging up on Prime Minister Turnbull, however these claims were dismissed by both parties. Nonetheless, it does raise the question of where to from here?
China and the South Pacific
It’s no secret that Australia enjoys a flourishing trade relationship with China, their biggest export market. It’s also no secret that China is determined to become the controlling power in the South Pacific. Australia could find itself in a delicate situation, having to choose between alliances with one of the world superpowers. For now, this dilemma seems distant and unlikely to arise, as the cited deal may still go ahead while Turnbull keenly seeks a face-to-face with the new President.
The Unknown Implications
What remains unknown is the countries’ leverage strategies. It is unclear what Australia will offer the US in exchange for going ahead with the previously agreed upon plan, if at all. The manner in which the US intends to honor the refugee deal between the counties is also still vague. At this point, it’s important to remember that well managed conflict and\or disagreement can often lead to longstanding effective relationships, only time will tell what will evolve out of this very colorful first encounter between the two countries’ leaders.