Australian PM Turnbull Will Be in Talks with President Trump
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will receive a ceremonial welcome from United States President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump on Friday, during his official visit in the US. Turnbull is leading a large delegation with chief ministers and premiers, as well as business leaders. According to news.com.au, the ceremony will be “the most significant honor bestowed on an Australian PM since John Howard visited in 2006.” Although Trump is largely unpopular in Australia, as an expert in the United States Studies Center located in Australia indicates, it is a great opportunity for Turnbull to improve economic ties between the two countries.
The topics up for discussion are the threat of China and trade and immigration deals. In January 2017, the two leaders started their relationship arguing over an immigration deal made by former US President Obama. However, Turnbull flew out from Australia, insisting “we get on very well.”
Currently, more than 200 refugees have left Australian detention centers for the US, after a long vetting procedure by American officials. Central American refugees have also been welcomed to the Australian soil. In the initial deal however, the US promised to take in more than 1,200 refugees. Human Rights activists have questioned that the two countries intend to keep the number low, in order to avoid backlash from Trump.
With regards to China, right now the US ranks the threat of terror organizations below the Chinese military, while Australia ranks terror organizations higher than Chinese threats. When asked about the subject, Turnbull insisted that the Australian government “[does] not see any hostile intent from China.”
Still, the Australian government has stepped up its efforts to prevent foreign influence in democratic institutions, introducing bills to ban foreign donations and register foreign lobbyists. Last year, Senator Sam Dastyari came under fire after the reports of him giving counterintelligence advice to his former donor and Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.
Officials of both countries are concerned with China’s efforts to undermine democratic systems of institutions. In December, Trump announced his new security agenda, which mentioned China as a threat to “American influence, values and wealth.” Turnbull has faced backlash, including from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who criticized his government of “neo-McCarthyism” and “anti-Chinese jihad.”
There are also speculations about a possible infrastructure project between Australia, US, India, and Japan that would become an alternative to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, an ambitious $1 trillion plan to connect Europe, Africa, and Asia by railroads.
There are also expectations for Turnbull to advance talks to convince the US leadership to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Soon after becoming President, Trump pulled out from the group. Turnbull mentioned that there is need for “trillion dollars of additional infrastructure investment.” Before leaving for US, Turnbull commented, “it would be great if the US were able to rejoin - but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”
The newly released provisions of TPP-11 allow employers to hire applicants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Chile. Australian trade minister emphasized that this would not create a large competition because only about 200 visa applicants had came from those TPP countries, out of the whole 50,000 application pool.
It is unclear as to how much Trump will prioritize his America First objective. However, he will definitely be given incentives to cooperate with countries like Australia. The New York Times reported that the US-Australia investment relationship is worth more than $1 trillion dollars.