Thursday, 26 May 2016


Barack Obama & Donald Trump
President Barack Obama took to the world stage on Thursday to warn Americans that US allies have been “rattled” by the rise of Donald Trump and surprised he had become the Republican candidate.

President Obama told a press conference at the summit of Group of Seven leaders in Japan that his counterparts were paying “very close attention” to the election and to statements the New York mogul has made during the campaign.

“They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements but they are rattled by him,” said Obama after talks with G7 leaders from Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada. “And for good reason, because a lot of the proposals he has made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what it is that is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous and what is required to keep the world on an even keel.” 

Obama has criticised Trump before but it is rare for a US president to weigh into a race for the White House in such terms while overseas. His comments highlight mounting unease in many countries about Trump as recent US polls show him running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton.

Speaking in North Dakota on Thursday, Trump hit back at Obama by calling him a “horrible” president. He also said he was glad that foreign leaders were on edge, declaring that “when you rattle someone that is good”.

Earlier Trump technically secured the GOP presidential nomination after previously unbound delegates threw their support behind him to take him over the required 1,237 count needed to secure the party’s endorsement at its convention in Cleveland in July. Clinton remains mired in a fight with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race even though the Vermont senator has no path to victory.

Trump has sparked concern across the world with proposals that range from a ban on Muslims entering the US to building a wall on the US-Mexico border to encouraging Japan and South Korea to consider building nuclear weapons to ease the burden on the US to defend them from North Korea. 

Will another report criticising Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server haunt her presidential campaign? Why is Bernie Sanders sticking out the rest of the Democratic race?

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, previously criticised Trump over his comments on Muslims, prompting the tycoon to say that relations with the UK would probably suffer should he become president. “It looks like we’re not going to have a very good relationship. Who knows?” he said.

Earlier this year, Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, said he would work with whoever became the US president, but was “rooting for Hillary Clinton”.

In what was billed as an important foreign policy address in April, Trump outlined an “America first” approach that combined tough but vague rhetoric on tackling Isis with a heavy dose of isolationism. He has also sparked anxiety among US allies and the Republican foreign policy establishment by suggesting Washington would play a lesser role in Nato unless the member countries of the transatlantic security alliance contributed ore to their own defence.

Trump last week said he was also prepared to negotiate with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s authoritarian leader, to try to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has insisted that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons programme before any serious talks about issues such as normalising relations could take place.

While Trump has been a topic of conversation among the G7 leaders, the broader rise of populism has been a big talking point behind the scenes at the summit. The battle for the US presidency has shifted into a new gear as caucuses and primary elections are held state by state until June

Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, tweeted from the margins of the summit about a “horror scenario” in which populists take power across the world. “2017 with Trump, Le Pen, Boris Johnson, Beppe Grillo?” he wrote. “A horror scenario that shows well why it is worth fighting populism.”

Trump's rise has caused considerable consternation in Japan, given his comments about making the country pay for its own defence, or developing its own nuclear weapons. Tokyo’s attitude so far has been to sit tight and say it will respect the choice of US voters. But Trump’s candidacy is especially flummoxing for the government of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, because Japan is normally more comfortable with a Republican in the White House. 

A senior official said Tokyo had made little progress in engaging with the GOP candidate, partly because it did not know who is advising him on foreign policy, and also for fear that Trump could exploit an approach for publicity. 

Those concerns are echoed in Washington where many foreign embassies are struggling to find Trump advisers to cultivate ahead of the general election. Trump has named only a small number of what is widely considered a third-rate team of foreign policy experts, with most experienced Republicans on the sidelines because of disagreements over style and substance. (FinancialTimes)