Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has criticised the heads of the United States, Britain, and China for holding the interests of their respective nation-states above the sake of greater global co-operation.
Leaders ought to demonstrate “unconditional leadership”, which would mean that decisions by the leader would benefit the whole community rather than “just the narrow interest” of the leader’s organisation, Bishop said in a conference in Sydney this morning.
By contrast, US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson all demonstrate ‘conditional leadership’, which is ‘a much narrower focus’ and could have “damaging consequences more broadly”.
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“President Trump has adopted an America-first approach; some fear it's an America-only approach. But his argument is that the generosity shown by the United States to its former enemies and its allies have never been respected nor repaid,” Bishop said.
Additionally, Trump has attacked US’ NATO partners for failing to pull their weight and has insisted they contribute more to their defence partners to help ease the burden the US has carried, Bishop added.
She said that the impetus for the escalating US-China trade war was because Trump believed China’s “predatory” practices had undermined the US economy, which then saw US manufacturing take a hit and the loss of US jobs.
“And so he is unrelenting on his focus on China. That's conditional leadership,” Bishop said.
“My concern about that, as so often with conditional leadership, is that the narrow self-interest can have damaging consequences more broadly.”
With the trade war showing no signs of abating, Bishop said she could not see “where the off-ramp to this trajectory is”.
The former foreign minister indicated neither Trump nor Xi seemed willing to budge, with Trump facing a presidential election in 2020 and under pressure to keep to his promise to bring jobs back to the US, while Xi had been “criticised for his aggressive economic and military stances” and “[couldn’t] afford to back down”.
“Here is an example of conditional leadership being played out on the world stage with widespread consequences that could be damaging.”
Yesterday morning alone saw $30 million wiped off the ASX as Australia’s local bourse fell off the back of trade tensions between the two superpowers.
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