With an ally like Donald Trump who needs enemies?
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE’s personal deportment with the United States’s closest friends and allies in merely the first ten days of his presidency is an unprecedented cause for alarm and deep concern.

With Secretary Tillerson’s confirmation vote now behind him, his initial “to do” list may be the longest for any Secretary of State in modern history. Given the grave circumstances in numerous locations around the world and the most recent diplomatic meltdown the president has created in Mexico and Australia, the secretary clearly has an enormously full plate.

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As he makes his first list, Secretary Tillerson should start with our best friends. Using that criterion he urgently needs to stop in Mexico and Australia on his way back from Asia before returning home. Some explanation and reassurance to the people and their elected leaders in these two countries is essential before permanent damage to our relationships is done.

Unfortunately, it may already be too late.

 

By almost any definition, Mexico ranks as one of our closest, most loyal and important friends. Besides sharing nearly a two thousand mile border, total trade between our countries now exceeds a half trillion dollars. That represents an increase of over five hundred per cent in just the past twenty-five years.

After thirty years of concerted effort by both major parties on both sides of the border our relationship with Mexico has never been stronger. Yet all of this progress could easily be lost by the new president’s curious and extremely destructive attacks on Mexico and Mexicans.

Revoking NAFTA, building a border wall and demanding that Mexico pay for it, in addition to threatening military force if the Mexican government “failed to control bad hombres” are matters that are nothing short of bizarre and an affront to both the Mexican people and their government.

The president’s reported abrupt and undiplomatic telephone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was as disconcerting as it was inexplicable. President Trump first insulted the prime minister by accusing him of making “a dumb deal” in an agreement he made with the Obama administration to bring 1250 refugees to the U.S. After noting that he had called other world leaders that day, he reportedly pronounced this one as “the worst call by far” and abruptly terminated the conversation.

Australia has been one of our country’s most loyal and consistent allies. They have supported the U.S. in virtually every military engagement since World War II, including our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following 9/11, the Australian people showed enormous empathy and immediately invoked our formal security alliances.

Like Mexico, Australia is also a critical trading partner with the United States. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, since the Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 2005, two-way trade has increased over 75 percent with a U.S. surplus of more than $25 billion. Direct foreign investment has more than doubled in the last ten years.

Unlike Mexico, Australia has developed a far closer relationship with China. Just a year ago, the two countries entered into their own free trade agreement. With President Trump’s termination of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is highly likely that this relationship will get even closer.

Secretary Tillerson may not be able to rectify the diplomatic crises we now face in both countries.

In fact, decisions and statements emanating from the Oval Office may get worse before they get better.

But the secretary can reassure the leaders and people of both countries that we respect them, that we treasure our relationships, and that we greatly appreciate their importance in every context.

The United States can ill-afford to alienate our two of our closest friends. Our economic and national security challenges are complex and often times controversial. As in the past, it will be vital to our national interests to continue to have the trust and confidence of our friends and allies.

During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Tillerson took a number of positions at odds with the president. In the coming months, he will need to demonstrate his independence and assert himself to ensure our foreign policy partnerships and priorities stay true to who we are as a country.

He and Secretary of Defense Mattis are perhaps the only members of the Cabinet capable of articulating the importance of maintaining our friendships abroad.

The urgency of doing so now cannot be overstated. In a less than two weeks, the Trump administration has dug themselves a hole in Mexico, Australia and elsewhere.

Secretary Tillerson should commit himself to pulling them out.

Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is a former United States Senate majority leader.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill