A Trump presidency would be “certain” to cause substantial problems in relations with China and sink the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Kim Beazley, the former Australian ambassador to the US has said.
Beazley, also the former Australian Labor leader, made the comment at the Australian National University on Wednesday evening, appearing alongside US ambassador to Australia John Berry.
Beazley warned that Donald Trump, if he won the Republican nomination and then the US presidency in November’s election, would have to walk his policy positions back “180 degrees if you’re actually going to achieve the sort of outcomes that best suit American policy goals and standing in the world and provide the sort of assurances American allies would like”.
“Were he to come back halfway, it would still be devastating. That’s a serious matter, a matter of concern. I’m not sure he’d necessarily be all that worried about it. He has no regard for [US] alliances at all,” Beazley said.
Trump had displayed hostility to sensible policy and relations in the Asian region, he said.
America had provided a critical prop for Asian prosperity by being an importer of last resort, he said. “To walk away from that, the effect would be potentially quite devastating.”
Beazley, who tripped as he left the podium but quickly recovered, said the TPP would help lift millions out of poverty at no cost to US interests..
But Beazley warned if Trump won the presidency “it is certain the TPP would not go through”.
“[It is] certain there would be substantial problems in the relationship with China.”
Beazley said he had “never heard” of Trump’s foreign policy advisers despite the deep experience of many Republicans in that area. Berry suggested a successful presidential candidate could surround themselves with different advisers after an election.
Beazley predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election, which he said would be a reassuring thought for Australians following the campaign.
“Of all candidates, should she win, she would be most likely to replicate in minds of friends and opponents of America what it has stood for traditionally”, including a continued rebalance towards the Asian region.
“That might be problematic were any of the other candidates to be elected.”
Beazley predicted Clinton would easily win support from voters who had preferred her opponent Bernie Sanders in the primary.
“In the main they’ll come out to support Clinton. For a Democrat, she’s a very easy candidate to support, she’s a centrist of the left understanding. She understands how left the left think – she thought once that way herself.”
Beazley said Sanders’ campaign had dragged Clinton to the left but not so far as to inhibit her style of governing if she were elected.
Berry warned that generalisations about the American polity could not be drawn from the primary race, in which Trump polled one third of the votes in Republican primaries which drew only 10 to 20% of the members of that party.
“Two thirds of voters voted for one of the many other candidates on the Republican side,” he said.
“Be careful not to judge the country on the [basis of] very polarised, ideological people with deep feelings on certain issues.”
Berry said if he could “wave a magic wand” and bring one element of the Australian electoral system to the US, it would be its mandatory voting system. “Why? Because the bulk of our population is smack in the middle. They believe the government does good work, and they want a government with integrity and honesty.”
He urged Australians not to form conclusions about the US polity until after the 8 November presidential election.
This article was written by Paul Karp in Canberra, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 20th April 2016 22.14 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010