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Trump presidency could lead to more ‘stable’ U.S. foreign policy, Stephen Harper says

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
 

(CBC News) – Former prime minister Stephen Harper says he is taking a “glass half full” approach to the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the White House, while acknowledging the U.S. election is to blame for a great deal of uncertainty.

The former Conservative leader delivered one of his first major foreign policy speeches since leaving office Thursday, in New Delhi, where he pronounced on a series of political shock waves, including the Brexit vote and Trump.

“I think if you look around the world, the big trend is unmistakable: it is growing political uncertainty, especially in places we used to think of the most politically stable in the world,” Harper said in a 25-minute address to the Observer Research Foundation, an India-based policy research forum. He was invited to speak at the group’s annual conference on geopolitics, Raisina Dialogue, alongside other foreign and security experts, to discuss the future of multilateralism in a post-Trump world.

​He said that Trump’s promise to be more “transactional” and isolationist in his approach to global affairs could lead to a “much more stable American foreign policy.”

“I had a front-row seat for 10 years, up close, watching the United States foreign policy swing back and forth from overreaching global adventures and then to withering self-criticism and retreat. Trump’s approach could avoid both the tendency of the U.S. in one era to overestimate its capabilities and in another era to overstate its limitations.”

Harper said while Trump has hardly been specific, there are “broad outlines” to how he will upend long-established U.S. positions, notably his more adversarial approach to China.

“Trump is going to reverse the cornerstone of American foreign policy,” Harper said. “He is going to reject and reverse the idea that the U.S. has an overreaching responsibility for global affairs. The U.S. will cease to view the rise of China as essentially benign.”

Big trade deals ‘dead’

Harper said Trump is simply reflecting the mood of his voters by taking a stronger stance against China, with which the U.S. has run major trade imbalances.

The former prime minister also said he thinks large, multilateral trade deals are “dead.”

He said Trump’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership makes it a “certainty” that the 12 country trade pact — which his government negotiated — will not see the light of day.

“You may be surprised to know I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view on this. I’m not entirely sure where he’s going, but … what I share in common with Mr. Trump is I’ve actually negotiated deals.”

Trump, in opposing TPP, is simply reflecting the anxiety of the U.S. voters who were not adequately “brought along,” Harper said, unlike Canadians who were broadly supportive of his government’s push to pen more free trade deals because there was a widely held belief they stood to gain from such policy moves.

He said, in that vein, there is always a danger of leaders falling out of touch with their supporters, and that good governance has to be paired with a knack for sales.

“We always have to remember [as world leaders] we are accountable to ordinary people and to explaining to them how — what we are doing — is impacting and improving their lives and if we fail to do that, we run into problems.”

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