Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Special Relationship.

President Trump is not the easiest of men to deal with. Luckily for us in the UK we have a Prime Minister who seems to understand the President and get along with him. Hopefully this will enable her to influence him. This is important for several reasons, the most important of which is national security. It was very reassuring to hear the President giving enthusiastic backing to NATO, which has underpinned our security for decades. He has been making the entirely fair point that he wants NATO members to contribute the agreed 2% of GDP to defence, but it has created nervousness throughout the world that the US might not continue to support NATO. This would of course be the end of it as a truly effective deterrent. But it emerged in discussions between the Prime Minister and Mr Trump that the US remains firmly committed to NATO.

The second reason the British PM needs to develop a good relationship with the President is trade - not so much the development of a bilateral trade deal, but to challenge his enthusiasm for a 'protectionist' approach to world trade. The world, and the West in particular needs the US to be buying and selling around the world. Through promoting trade agreements with the US, we challenge the idea that 'protectionism' is a wealth creating approach for any country, including the US. I read so much 'guff' about how crucial a 'trade deal' with the US is, and where in the non-existent queue the UK stands. What the UK and the world needs is as close to tariff-free trade as possible. Prime Minister May did some excellent 'groundwork'. 

And then there is the hoohah that the new President creates through controversy. I'm never sure whether it's deliberate or accidental. But our media love it. NATO - boring. Protectionism and trade in a capitalist world - boring. Let's do some headlines about 'holding hands'. Even I thought the interpretations were quite funny, if ludicrous. The reality is it was a hugely successful visit.

But it is President Trump - who cares not a fig what the media thinks. No sooner had the UK Prime Minister left his country, he signed an executive order banning citizens from seven countries from entering the US. OK, following his election campaign, its no surprise that he wants to tighten up immigration control, but this ban won't work in the US interest, and in due course will probably be dropped. It's discriminatory and very UN-British.  Bit of fuss that the Prime Minister did not immediately condemn President Trump at a media event. She did what she usually does. Thought it through carefully, understanding what it means and then tells us it's not a policy she or Britain would ever follow, and that her Govt will act to support any UK citizens caught up in it. Careful, cautious and thought through. All in all, our Prime Minister has had a very good week. 

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