Obama confident of policy continuity

  • World, Published on: Wednesday 16th November 16 - 8:17pm

On his final foreign tour, U.S. President says Trump is committed to NATO and other key alliances

President Barack Obama sought to reassure the global and domestic audiences that his successor in waiting, Donald Trump, would ensure continuity in policy even as the latter continues to send out conflicting signals on domestic and foreign policy questions.

Ahead of embarking on his last foreign tour as President, Mr. Obama said the U.S.’s foreign policy was the “result not just of the President”. “...it is the result of countless interactions and arrangements and relationships,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “...there’s enormous continuity beneath the day-to-day news… That will continue.”

Mr. Obama’s final foreign tour is to Greece, Germany and Peru as American allies and foes struggle to fathom what could be in store under a Trump presidency. “In my conversation with the President-elect, he expressed great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships. And so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance,” Mr. Obama said.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump had initially said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had become obsolete and later amended his position to say that the military coalition’s new focus on Islamist terrorism makes it relevant.

America’s European allies are anxious about Mr. Trump’s policy towards Russia while its Asian partners are more concerned about his China policy. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is reportedly the frontrunner for the position of Secretary of State, said the new administration could seek a more cooperative relationship with Russia in the fight against Islamist terrorism, while describing Russia and China both as “friend and adversary” at the same time. He said while America must push back the military aggression of Russia, both countries must cooperate on terrorism, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Mr. Trump on Monday. Mr. Giuliani said the Trump administration would face adversaries with a “gigantic, overwhelming and modern military”, following the Reagan motto of “peace through strength”.

While President Obama underscored the element of continuity through Republican and Democratic administrations, a memo prepared by the transition team of the incoming President said he would break from the globalist consensus on trade shared by functionaries of both parties. “The Trump trade plan breaks with the globalist wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties,” the document says. “The Trump administration will reverse decades of conciliatory trade policy. New trade agreements will be negotiated that provide for the interests of U.S. workers and companies first,” it adds.

The memo said the Trump administration would focus on U.S. trade relations in the first 200 days and could scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new administration will seek to negotiate bilateral trade treaties with Canada and Mexico, two major trading partners of the U.S.

Meanwhile, the appointment of far-right activist Stephen Bannon as the chief strategist of the administration has triggered a wave of protest from Democrats and civil rights activists. “There must be no sugar-coating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump Administration,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff appointee, said Mr. Trump wants to be “President for all Americans, irrespective of their race or religion,” but protests continued in several cities in America on the sixth day after the election, against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Obama refused to comment on the choice of Mr. Bannon. “Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States. And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will... reflect his policies. And those who didn’t vote for him have to recognise that that’s how democracy works. That's how this system operates,” he said.

Mr. Obama, however, said that during their meeting, he told Mr. Trump that “gestures matter” and “it’s really important to try to send some signals of unity, and to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign.”

“I think he’s sincere in wanting to be a successful President and moving this country forward,” he said, adding that “regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up.” “[B]ecause reality has a way of asserting itself,” said Mr. Obama.