Turnbull’s budding bromance with Trump

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PM Malcolm Turnbull has spoken to US President-elect Donald Trump and congratulated him on his win.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with Christopher Pyne in the background, have said Australia’s relationship with President-elect Trump is off to a good start. Picture: Lukas Coch

MALCOLM Turnbull says Australia is getting off to a good start with US President-elect Donald Trump’s team.

Labor and the Greens are urging a cautious approach to the new administration, with parliament next week set to debate a motion to ditch Australia’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

A federal cabinet meeting in Melbourne on Tuesday received briefings from several ministers, including defence, defence industry and foreign affairs, on how the new administration could impact Australia.

The Prime Minister, who will meet with US President Barack Obama at the Peru APEC summit in coming days, said the government had put in the ground work.

“One of the great things Joe (Hockey) has done, and indeed our government has done, is made sure that we stayed in touch with both sides in the election campaign so that whatever the result we were able to get off to a good start with the new administration,” Mr Turnbull told Triple M radio on Wednesday.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, who revealed the cabinet discussion, said the government was “very much across the Trump team”.

“Joe Hockey as our ambassador was talking to the Trump transition team many, many months ago in anticipation that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election. We are well placed in nations around the world,” Mr Pyne told reporters in Canberra.

With Mr Trump having campaigned against the TPP, the Greens will bring a motion to parliament next week seeking it be dumped.

“Essentially it’s a blueprint for a corporate takeover of government,” Greens MP Adam Bandt told ABC radio.

Opposition trade spokesman Jason Clare insists the TPP is dead following Mr Trump’s election, with free trade in the US now about as “popular as a snake in a sleeping bag”.

“Trade deals aren’t the reason people are hurting, but they are a lightning rod for the anger and frustration people are feeling,” he writes in theAustralian Financial Review.

The agreement between the US, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries covers about 40 per cent of the world’s total trade, and proponents warn that a retreat by Washington will push the other participants closer to China. Canberra’s chief negotiator Andrew Robb has argued the TPP would be transformational for the Australian economy.

His successor as trade minister, Steve Ciobo, has said it would not make sense to conclude the pact in its current form without the US.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says the focus should shift to another trade deal known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“We need to work with our regional partners during this period of uncertainty to identify areas of common interest and jointly seek to influence US thinking on these,” Ms Wong said.

“First among these is continued constructive US engagement in our region.”

Mr Pyne said Australia was determined not to be one of the “strategic bludgers” criticised by Mr Trump, who plans a major spend on defence during his term.

“We not only pull our weight in terms of our spending, we pull our weight in terms of operations and, in the Middle East right now, Australia’s involvement is second only to the United States,” he said.

Ms Wong said there was a danger Mr Turnbull could emulate Tony Abbott in taking a “chest-beating” approach to global events.

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