Sunday 16 Jun 2019 | 14:45 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

Is the US economy at full employment?

After the painfully slow recovery from the 2008 great Recession, US unemployment is now 4.4%, well below the level commonly regarded as 'full employment'. This would suggest that the economy has reached capacity, with some arguing that the current lacklustre rate of growth is in fact 

China v US: Who needs allies?

People often argue that America’s alliances in Asia are a decisive advantage in its contest with China for regional strategic primacy. China’s only ally, they say, is North Korea, while America has an entire alliance system encompassing many key regional states, as well as a wider circle of

US FONOPs: Game on again in the South China Sea

According to this Reuters report, which was soon followed by others citing a Pentagon spokesman, a US Navy warship, the destroyer USS Dewey, has recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. This was the first such challenge to Beijing by the

Why Trump’s Middle East trip matters to Australia

There are two reasons why US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East matters to Australia. First, the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he also held a summit with Arab leaders, and Israel are a signal of where the administration’s foreign policy priority lies, and this does

For Trump, the Watergate analogies run deep

US President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has left commentators grasping for Watergate analogies. The 'Saturday Night Massacre' of October 1973 has been the most frequently cited, since this was the moment when President Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the Watergate

Trump’s Middle East tour: Status quo reset

President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East tour, his first international trip since assuming office in January, will take him to the heart of the three monotheistic faiths, beginning in Saudi Arabia, travelling to Israel and finishing at the Vatican. The symbolism of the tour is manifold.

Erdogan leaves Trump empty-handed

The language at the press conference following their meeting earlier this week may have been conciliatory, but there is no masking the tensions between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two strongmen lavished praise on each another,

Trumponomics: The art of the trade deal

President’s Trump’s trade policies are still evolving, but they are turning out to be rather different from his pre-election rhetoric. Concerns about an all-out trade war are fading away, as is the threat of bilateral 35%-45% tariffs against Mexico and China. The planned renegotiation of NAFTA

As Trump flip-flops in Asia, things slide China’s way

Somewhat obscured in last week's outpouring of penny dreadful news from Washington (such as Sean Spicer ensconcing himself in the White House shrubbery) was the announcement of a US-China 100-day economic action plan. It is a pedestrian, workmanlike document, committing to a raft of

All eyes on Congress as Watergate shadow looms

The United States is awash with headlines decrying President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. A multitude of news stories and broadcasts suggest Trump is engaged in a cover-up of his ties to Russia at the expense of the United States and the fairness of the 2016

Proof the US is losing hearts and minds in Southeast Asia

Trump sniping has become a sport with no marksmanship. Facile Trump click-bait circulates freely on social media fulfilling a confirmation bias in its audience and perpetuating a parasitic cycle of groupthink that is feeding poor analysis and driving solutions to complex problems deeper underground

Why now? Trump’s sudden interest in Southeast Asia

More than 100 days into the Trump presidency, the administration’s Asia policy, departmental Asia teams and new ambassadors to the region are still absent and there is no indication of when this will change. For Southeast Asia the first three months of the Trump administration provided very few

The allure of orthodoxy and the peril of sentimentality

In one respect, the symbolism of President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting aboard the USS Intrepid in New York on Thursday could not be more ideal. After all, the moment will surely provide the perfect opportunity to showcase an alliance which has always – and

Did ‘elites’ get the 2016 US election wrong?

In a recent speech to the Sydney Institute, Australian Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey said that, just before last November's presidential election, he 'simply could not shake the feeling that the signs were pointing to an outcome that was...in no way ordinary.' My congratulations to Ambassador

The Xi-Trump Summit: Rearranging the furniture

In his inimitable way, US President Donald Trump promised major things with the Chinese president’s visit to Trump's residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. In the end, this particular informal summit, if it is remembered at all, will be because of the intervention Trump ordered, almost minutes before

Missile strikes do not signal US shift on Syria

In a complex and confusing civil war in which decisions can result in unforeseen consequences, the Trump Administration was presented with a relatively straightforward choice and with a perfect target. Syrian military aircraft, launched from Shayrat airbase in Homs, carried out an attack

The Trump-Xi meeting: A view from China

As the White House finalises its preparations for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is to be hoped both sides are as much invested in working towards outcomes of substance as they are in protocol. In terms of substance, there are ample areas for the two presidents to address. These

Convention likely to win out in Trump-Xi meeting

Of all the startling events of the Trump Administration's first three months, the one most consequential for the rest of the world is quite likely the meeting between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Largo, beginning Thursday. The importance of this meeting is not any likely outcome

Don’t waste time trying to get Trump to Manila

Over the last two months, Australian and Southeast Asian officials have been urging their US counterparts to ensure President Donald Trump shows up at two major summits in Southeast Asia in November. They argue that Trump's presence at the APEC Forum in Danang and the East Asian Summit in Manila

Are US Fed rate projections ‘behind the curve’?

Last Wednesday the US Federal Reserve raised the Fed funds rate for the third time since the 2008 financial crisis. Financial market commentators have worked hard over this eight-year period to create downside drama in the narrative of the return of interest rates from the abnormally low levels of

Dear foreign policy elite: You’re obsolete

Rex Tillerson recently completed his first trip to Beijing as Secretary of State. Since then, a slew of critics have panned Tillerson for supposedly handing China a ‘diplomatic victory’ because a joint media conference includes phrases like ‘win-win’ and ‘mutual respect’ - notions these

The Merkel-Trump meeting: NATO, jobs and trade

Few world leaders embody the virtues of patience as completely as Angela Merkel. Fewer still demand them as much as Donald Trump. So when the two met face-to-face for the first time on Friday, the news media concentrated on these two antithetical personalities and the contrasting worldviews they

The strategic nous of H R McMaster

Given the extraordinary events that continue to take place in the United States, it is salutary to note that the appointment of General H R McMaster as President Doanld Trump's National Security Advisor took place a bare two weeks ago. At the time his appointment was widely welcomed, with

The Trump trade agenda

Trade and migration were the two big economic issues in Donald Trump’s electioneering. As president, he has moved swiftly on migration but has done very little on trade so far. China has not been blacklisted as a currency manipulator; NAFTA remains untouched; and no tariffs have been imposed on

Letters from a more dignified America (Part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series. For Part 1, click here. The second of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America I want to highlight honours General George Marshall. It was broadcast in 1959. Cooke says of Marshall that 'most Americans were willing to credit the reports of his eminence

Letters from a more dignified America

This post is the first in a two-part series. For Part 2, click here. As the world struggles to adjust to the Trump phenomenon, I’m reminded of a man who might have come closer than most to making sense of it all. Englishman Alistair Cooke, it can fairly be said, understood America better than

Welcome to the post-American era

The opening lines in US President Donald Trump's first speech to a Joint Session of Congress could have come from any recent president, with optimistic stock phrases about a 'new chapter of American greatness', a 'new surge of optimism', and a 'renewal of US spirit.' At first it seemed like a

Abe's Trump moves: Proactive pragmatism at its finest

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished what no other foreign leaders has with US President Donald Trump. Not only has he already met him twice — once before and again just after the inauguration — but Trump appears to genuinely like Abe. Of course, the state of US-Japan relations

Saving NAFTA: Canada’s three-point playbook

Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau completed his first official visit with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. Trudeau and his staff were no doubt aware that it’s usually the other way around: since the early 1980s, there's been an unofficial tradition that the first

Why Australia and Japan need a Plan B

Concern over the possible decline of US power and the resilience of its commitment to underwriting security in Asia is not new. In the post-1945 period, doubts over Washington’s commitment to maintaining a leadership role in the region have followed President Nixon’s shift to the Guam Doctrine

Trump's info wars not so easily won

While it might be overshadowed by future revelations on the extent of Russian-American collusion in the rise and rule of President Donald Trump, this week’s departure of the president’s national security adviser Michael Flynn is now most notable for the roles played by US intelligence agencies

Flynn the first casualty in chaotic Trump White House

What a mess. Less than a month in and the Trump administration is reeling from the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. The ostensible reason: holding inappropriate phone conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition period and deceiving the vice

Trump critics need to be careful what they cheer for

It is surely no exaggeration to say that a large majority of the journalists and commentators covering the Trump White House are hostile to it, and would like to see President Trump fail. But Trump's critics have already done themselves a lot of harm, and Mr Trump a lot of favours, by the lack of

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