What Australia needs to do after Trump, by John McCarthy, East Asia Forum, 1 January 2017.

Former Australian Ambassador to Vietnam (1981-83), John McCarthy, writes about Australia’s position in Asia during Trump’s reign.

An edited extract of the original article is reproduced below.

When it comes to Donald Trump, Australia needs to think about four things.

First, Trump’s apparent perspective on security contains contradictions…

Second, Trump’s approach to international economic arrangements — as epitomised by his announced withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)…

Third, Trump and his closest advisors seem to know little and care less about the international treaty structure…

Fourth, since WWII, the United States has propagated the democratic ethic as the fairest, if an imperfect, form of governance…

If American policy in the region is at odds with our interests, we must be prepared to challenge such policies.

To differ with the United States on security — particularly with the group who will take power next month — may require political courage of an order to which Australians are unaccustomed.

To do this, Australia must think seriously about its dealings with Asia. This should involve a more ambitious attempt than in the past to educate Australians about Asia, as suggested in the 2012 Asian Century White Paper.

Australia should also encourage serious bilateral dialogue between the United States and China, rather than seek a bridging role. The issues are of will, not process.

Australia must maintain a strong dialogue of its own with China and emphasise strategic dialogues with the more independent-minded countries in Asia such as Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore — not just to exchange views, but to develop common approaches to regional security issues. Australia should also continue to consult with ASEAN as a group, while bearing in mind it is less cohesive than it once was and that bilateral channels are more effective…

Australia must stick to its own values. And in four years, the United States’ outlook may revert to something with which Australia again has something in common.

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