Heather du Plessis-Allan: Why PM's meeting with Trump is a big deal

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 17 September 2019, 4:31PM
Jacinda Ardern must put her personal feelings aside during the meeting. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Finally some good news for the Government.

The PM has scored a sit down meeting with the US president Donald Trump. We need this meeting. We need our relationship with the US to get back on track, with the aim of scoring us an FTA and get an exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs

This is up to the Prime Minister. She’s going to have to forge some sort of a working relationship with him that starts getting results. It’ll take some tongue biting, because it’s pretty clear she’s not a fan.

She marched against him months before she was Labour leader. She’s told him off a number of times publicly, and she even referred to him as a professional asshole in an interview.

But that’s got to be put to the side, because we’re getting left behind here.

Compare us to Australia. Australia’s got a great relationship with the US right now.

Things got off to a rocky start between Trump and Malcolm Turnbull. They had a really hairy phone conversation right at the outset. But since then, Trump got to like Turnbull so much he invited him to the White House, declared his love for Australia, and is now laying on a state dinner at the White House this week for Scott Morrison.

And Australia got exempted from the tarrifs last year. Meanwhile, we’re still paying the tarrifs.

We are just happy our PM’s got her first sit down with Trump, which is really a remarkable cooling in the relationship when you think that John Key was playing golf with Barack Obama when they were on holiday in Hawaii.

So anyway, how did Australia get a better deal? They tried. Turnbull made it happen. He recruited Greg Norman the golfer and Rupert Murdoch to put in a good word with Trump, and it’s paid dividends.

That’s what we need to be doing. Not least because it will help our exporters, but also because it will make us so much less reliant on China and its own trade tantrums. 

Yes, there is a bit of a political risk here for the PM. She’s pitched herself as anti-Trump, so she can’t be seen to be sucking up to him too much. Best not too smile or laugh or flatter him during that sit down. 

But behind the scenes, we need to be doing what we can because as I said, we’re left behind. It’s not a good sign if a sit down is something to get excited about.

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