Rare sight on White House balcony

 

Donald Trump is preparing to host Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a prestigious state visit later this week.

Today members of the US military were visible on the White House lawn as they rehearsed for the event, with Mr Trump himself watching from a second-floor balcony.

The scene at the White House today. Picture: news.com.au
The scene at the White House today. Picture: news.com.au

Mr Morrison will leave for the United States after parliament rises on Thursday, and be hosted at a state dinner in Washington D.C. on Friday local time.

It's a big deal. Mr Trump has only held one other state dinner during his presidency, with French President Emmanuel Macron. By contrast, his predecessor Barack Obama hosted 17 during his eight years in office.

John Howard was the last Australian prime minister to attend one all the way back in 2006, when George W. Bush was president.

 

"The visit will celebrate our two countries' close friendship and shared history, and reaffirm our common vision for global peace, security and prosperity," the White House said when it announced Mr Morrison's trip.

The Prime Minister has forged a good working relationship with Mr Trump since assuming the top job in August of last year.

The pair recently met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France, where Mr Trump jokingly referred to Mr Morrison as "the king of Australia". They discussed the need to resolve the United States' ongoing trade war with China, but in public at least, Mr Morrison avoided criticising Mr Trump directly.

"We have had a good discussion about the US-China trade exchanges," he said.

"What I'd simply say is that the US has raised a number of issues for some time now with China, and China has raised some matters. It's up to those two countries to sort it out and come to an agreement.

"I've always been hopeful that they will do that, and of course we'd like to see that happen sooner rather than later.

"The US has legitimate issues they wish to pursue as part of that trading relationship. It's not for us to dictate to them any more than it is to China."

He also said Mr Trump had thanked him for Australia's military commitment to protecting shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

"The strength of the relationship with the US is extraordinarily strong," government minister Stuart Robert said this morning.

"We need to keep it that way. And only dialogue and engagement can do that."

Scott Morrison and Donald Trump at the G7. Picture: Adam Taylor/PMO
Scott Morrison and Donald Trump at the G7. Picture: Adam Taylor/PMO

Mr Morrison's cordial relationship with Mr Trump contrasts with the occasionally stormy one his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull endured.

Mr Turnbull infamously confronted the US President head on during a fiery phone call back in 2017, as Mr Trump took issue with a deal his own predecessor Barack Obama had signed with Australia committing to take a number of refugees being held in detention.

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"That will make us look awfully bad. Here I cam calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2000 people. Really, it looks like 2000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground," Mr Trump said.

"I have to say I love Australia. I love the people of Australia. I have so many friends from Australia. But I said, geez that is a big ask.

"We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardinos, we have had the World Trade Centre come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing."

Mr Turnbull urged Mr Trump to hear him out, saying he thought "we should respect deals" and the US would be able to vet the refugees.

Mr Trump continued to resist the idea, calling it a "stupid deal", but eventually agreed to uphold his end of the bargain.

"This is going to kill me. I am the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country, and now I am agreeing to take 2000 people," he said.

"I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you, I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad.

"I think it is ridiculous and Obama should never have signed it. The only reason I will take them is because I have to honour a deal signed by my predecessor, and it was a rotten deal. I say that it is a stupid deal."

It wasn't a great first impression. But Mr Turnbull did manage to repair his relationship with Mr Trump, at least to some extent.

The pair later came together for a dinner honouring the 75th anniversary of the victory over Japan in the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II. Both played down their confrontation.

"Sometimes the strongest relationships can start with a bit of a quarrel and both parties end up having a great deal of respect for each other," said Joe Hockey, Australia's ambassador to the US at the time.

But Mr Turnbull's trip to the United States did not include the honour of a state dinner.

After Mr Morrison became Prime Minister, he met Mr Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. The President asked him to explain why Mr Turnbull was no longer leader.

"We just got to know each other and so far so good, I have to tell you. I think it's going to be a great relationship, and I certainly anticipate having a great relationship," Mr Trump said.

"I think you've done a very good job in a very short period of time. You've done a lot of things that they've wanted to be done. That's why you're sitting right here," he told Mr Morrison.

 


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