27 April 2017. It must have been Trump 100 day in Sydney. That evening, there were 3 President Trump related events.
- Andrew Robb at the Centre for Independent Studies.
- Mark Latham, Ross Cameron and Steve Kates on the Sydney launch of Steve’s new book.
- Stephen Loosley and Kim Beazley and others at the US Studies Centre.
Only because it was the first one that came to my attention, I attended the Andrew Robb event.
Given that the Andrew Robb event was published live and delayed on YouTube, it cannot be said that Mr Robb’s comments were under Chatham House rules. Also whilst, Mr Robb’s comments were under the rubric of President Trump’s first 100 days, Mr Robb’s comments were mostly about trade in general and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in particular.
Cats can make their own judgements on Mr Robb and Mr Robb’s comments, but 2 things were particularly striking to me.
Firstly, in his early comments, Mr Robb rightly criticized the unaccountable European Union bureaucrats and technocrats in Geneva and Brussels. He described the arrogance and hubris of these unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats setting Europe wide laws and policies. He even recounted a story of, when doing some research in Manchester in the late 1990s, we was told that garbage bin colours were regulated from Brussels and a compliance force existed to check and to fine local authorities for non-compliance.
I thought this a funny story, but also thought it hard to believe. Until, with the assistance of Professor Google, I discovered the European Commission Waste Framework Directive and the European Union legislation on waste management operations. Apparently also, new European Union rules legally required households to separate all rubbish for recycling from 2015 and paper, metal, glass and plastic will all have to be collected separately from other waste.
So there. And people wondered why the UK voted for Brexit.
But then in later comments, Mr Robb completely undermined himself when discussing the various state based moratoria on gas exploration and fracking. At this juncture, he brusquely and offhandedly dismissed the views of “someone from the back of Bourke” (at around 49.15) who might be against unconventional gas exploration and extraction.
Now whilst I support unconventional gas, I also support the requirement of the political class to make their case and not to be arrogant and dismissive of community concerns. You know like the European Commission types Mr Robb earlier criticized.
Secondly and more interestingly, Mr Robb laid blame for the failure of the TPP squarely on President Trump, even implying that he was pandering to his base and did not understand the issues.
Both those things may be true. Who knows. But equally, the political failure of the TPP lies more squarely with President Obama rather than President Trump.
Mr Robb failed to acknowledge that the position of Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was also to ditch the TPP. So irrespective of who became President, the TPP was well dead before the 2016 US Presidential election. Mr Robb also completely discounted the role of the US Congress in effecting the TPP – either as an act of Congress (like NAFTA) or as a treaty approved by the US Senate.
The TPP was dead well before the US elections because President Obama failed to explain and sell it.
Politics is a careful mix of policy and presentation. Perhaps the policy was right, but the presentation by President Obama was …… how do they say ….. crap.
It might also be argued that the TPP was allowed to die by President Trump so as to engage China into dealing with North Korean belligerence. Equally, a near straight light might be drawn from President Obama’s foreign policy to North Korea’s belligerence. After all, what lessons would a rational observer learn from the Obama administrations actions in respect to Libya and Iran.
With the US government having previously promised to support, including through economic aid, the Gaddafi regime in exchange for its surrender of their nuclear program, the merry band of President Obama and Secretary Hillary “We came, we saw, he (Gaddafi) died” Clinton engineered a collapse of the Gaddafi regime which Gaddafi himself 6 feet under ground and his sons in jail.
The deal with Iran to allow them to keep their nuclear program in exchange for piles of cash also sent certain signals to Pyongyang.
Following 8 years of Obama foreign policy, developing nuclear weapons is (very sadly) entirely rational for the average despot.
In his comments (at 44.29), Mr Robb stated that:
Obama would have been discredited as the worst President in US history, on every count, if fracking hadn’t turned up.
If Mr Robb had actually just said “Obama would have been discredited as was the worst President in US history, on every count, if fracking hadn’t tured up.”, he would have been 100% correct.