• 21:33
  • 25.05.2020
Kissing up to Trump to avoid a 'Malcolm'

Kissing up to Trump to avoid a 'Malcolm'

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As Donald Trump prepares for his tour of Asia, world leaders have taken a salutary lesson from the US president's interactions with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull.
On a frigid late January afternoon in Washington DC Trump picked up the phone in the Oval Office and commenced 'that' notorious call with Turnbull.
Turnbull's initial strategy to build a relationship with the new president seemed solid - establish credentials and find a common link.
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"I believe you and I have similar backgrounds, unusual for politicians, more businessman," Turnbull told Trump.
Trump seemed to like it.
Seconds later, like the Titanic crashing into the iceberg, Turnbull doomed the conversation by seeking Trump's approval of the Manus Island-Nauru refugee deal his predecessor Barack Obama had signed off on.
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Trump was elected on anti-immigration, anti-Obama platforms but Turnbull was relentless in the call as he sought Trump's endorsement of the agreement.
"This is going to kill me," Trump replied.
The president cut the scheduled hour long call to 24 minutes.
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When the Washington Post first reported the acrimonious details of the call the rock solid US-Australian relationship appeared shaky and world leaders took notice.
A playbook emerged for world and business leaders hoping to avoid sending their calls and meetings with the president into similar death spirals.
The playbook's main theme appears to be: flatter Mr Trump.
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Talk about business opportunities for the US and time your meeting with the signing of a multi-billion dollar deal.
If your nation has a trade deficit with the US, tell Trump about it.
If your nation has a trade surplus with the US, well, be prepared for Trump to take you to task about it.
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"World leaders' top responsibility is to advance the interests of their country and there is a sense among people who study President Trump that he responds very favourably to flattery," former US Ambassador to Australia and current candidate for Lieutenant Governor of California, Jeff Bleich, told AAP.
"So if you're trying to advance the interests of your country vis-a-vis the president, then I think a few countries believe flattery may be the best policy."
As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepared for a February meeting with Trump, a Toronto Star editorial warned him Trudeau: "Don't be a Malcolm".
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On Donald Trump's maiden foreign trip as president his first stop was Saudi Arabia where he happily watched Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman sign a $US110 billion defence deal with the US.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, unprompted in his White House visit, talked up a potential bullet train project "from Washington, DC to New York, where Trump Tower exists".
Last week in the White House Rose Garden Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, standing alongside Mr Trump, ticked all the right boxes.
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His visit coincided with Singapore Airlines signing a $US13.8 billion deal to purchase 39 Boeing aircraft and in his remarks he dropped how the US "has consistently run a substantial trade surplus with Singapore".
"Last year, it stood at $US18 billion," Mr Lee, framing it as a good thing, said.
Mr Lee then aimed the Trump flattery at an unlikely place.
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"And I discovered recently, looking at my sports shoes, at my New Balance shoes, which are very good, are made in the US, probably in New England," Mr Lee, receiving approval from Trump, said.
On Friday Trump will embark on a crucial 12-day tour of Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
North Korea's nuclear missile program and China's territorial advances will be among the top issues as Trump sits down for bilateral meetings, including a likely chat with Turnbull at APEC in Vietnam.
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Large helpings of flattery are expected to be on the menu.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to stroke Mr Trump's ego, however it might not be in view of the Chinese people.
"I think we are going to see more flattery from Xi than he would give to a different American president," Isaac Stone Fish, senior fellow at the Asia Society's centre for US-China relations, said.
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"My sense is there would be a lot of flattery in private meetings, but I don't think we will see that kind of flattery toward Trump in public meetings."
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