While Trump is a unique and unorthodox politician, Hockey said his approach to trade and defense policy represents the new normality of American politics.
“We’re not going back,” said Hockey. “The United States has changed, global trade has changed, geopolitics has changed and will have a profound impact on all parts of the world.”
“Any business in Australia that operates with blind indifference to what is happening in Washington will suffer in one way or another. From cybersecurity laws to cross-border taxes and punitive business measures, everything has changed and will not recede in any way. moment.”
Hockey said Australia had to prepare for a world in which world forums such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations play an increasingly marginal role.
“The United States has basically destroyed the entire multinational framework,” he said. “Relations are now overwhelmingly bilateral, not multilateral. And I don’t think this is exclusive to Republicans.”
In this climate, Australia will have to work harder than ever to maintain good relations with US leaders instead of relying on the long bilateral relationship of countries, he said.
Hockey noted the political positions of the main Democratic presidential contenders who, while opposing Trump’s abrasive style, share their protectionist commercial instincts and their resistance to deploying US troops abroad.
“Democrats in the debate stage are talking about breaking existing trade agreements,” he said. “Democrats look even more confused about trade than Republicans.”
Extending an argument he made in a speech in October, Hockey said both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly reluctant to use the global influence of the United States to promote free trade. In that speech, Hockey criticized Trump’s trade policies and said the United States risks losing its economic dominance unless it once again defends the free flow of goods and services across borders.
Protectionist trade policies also make the world a more dangerous place, he said.
“History shows that economic isolationism is a precursor to war,” he said. “If a nation is economically isolated, history shows that it can end up accelerating domestic nationalism, fueling external aggression.”
Hockey said the partial trade agreement signed by the United States and China in Washington on Wednesday (Thursday Australian time) was a “step in the right direction” towards a fairer trading system.
But he questioned Trump’s claim that it represents a “momentous” change in business relations between the two economic superpowers.
“It’s written on rice paper: anyone can break it at any time,” he said. “If it’s just about buying more goods, then it’s not a solution. It has to be structural.”
When asked about his predictions about the 2020 contest, Hockey said: “Right now, I can certainly see a way for Donald Trump to be re-elected. He is a formidable activist. Donald Trump defines and destroys his opponents better than almost any another person”. That I’ve seen “
Donald Trump defines and destroys opponents better than almost anyone else he has seen.
He added that many of the lowest-wage earners in the United States have seen their wages rise in recent years and that unemployment is at near record lows, which increases Trump’s re-election hopes.
As for the Democratic contest, he said: “My instinct is that the candidate who will win was not on the stage of the debate this week. The amount of money Michael Bloomberg is spending on television advertising is extraordinary.”
As ambassador, Hockey has fought the threats of Australian steel and aluminum tariffs and helped convince the Trump administration to resettle refugees from Manus and Nauru Island.
He also worked behind the scenes to calm the president’s anger over the role of Alexander Downer in activating an FBI investigation into his ties with Russia. Hockey developed a close personal relationship with the president and played golf with him several times. Trump also hosted Hockey for a private farewell meeting at the White House on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT).
The former liberal senator and former John Howard chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, succeeded hockey in early February. There will be no official transfer in Washington: according to diplomatic conventions, incoming and outgoing ambassadors cannot be in their host country at the same time during the transition period.
But, after a short visit to Australia, Hockey and his family will return to Washington. They are already renting a new house a few blocks from the ambassador’s residence in the majestic suburb of Woodley Park. The former treasurer said he does not have a fixed term for life in Washington and hopes to stay for more than a year.
“I am leaving public life and entering the private sector,” he said. He described his role to be announced shortly as one that encompasses “infrastructure, strategic directions, global affairs.”
Matthew Knott is a North American correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.