POLITICS

Scott Morrison Channels Trump With 'Australia First' Campaign

Just what Australia Day ordered.

25/01/2017 2:04 PM AEDT | Updated 25/01/2017 4:34 PM AEDT
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Treasurer Scott Morrison talks up 'Australia first.'

CANBERRA -- One thing is clear about Donald Trump; he is, and his policies are, "America First".

The new U.S. President said it in his inaugural speech and it was loud and clear on Monday when he signed American withdrawal from the symbol of Barack Obama's pivot to Asia, the 12-nation trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

It's an exit, one of the TPP nations and world's third largest economy, Japan regards Wednesday as rendering the whole agreement "meaningless".

And hey! Former Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is happy. Delighted in fact.

But today, a very Australian reaction, just a day out from Australia Day.

During an official visit to the United Kingdom, Treasurer Scott Morrison has outlined an "Australia first" trade policy based on multilateral deals.

"Australia is a trading nation and an Australia first policy does embrace trade and foreign investment and all of these things, so our economic interests are very much aligned with that approach," Morrison told Bloomberg.

Australia, as one of the signatories, is trying not to concede the death of the ambitious and secretive TPP –- which was to have represented about 40 percent of the global economy -- and the Turnbull Government is attempting to salvage it by negotiating with other TPP nations like Japan and Malaysia as what is clumsily known as "TPP12 minus 1".

But the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has turned that down, saying a TPP deal without the U.S. is "meaningless" and wants to keep lobbying the Trump Administration.

Canada is also not keen without its neighbour.

Less likely but still possible is the TPP also ending up including outsider nations China or Indonesia. This would be a turn up for the books, as the TPP was set up as a sort of rival to the Chinese hot house economy.

And so the Australia is trying to not take the protectionist, or even isolationist, policies of the Trump Administration lying down. In fact, the Treasurer said the government "respected the decision" by the President and it would now just "get on with it".

"The decision by the President was not unexpected but that doesn't mean that you simply walk away from these things," Morrison insisted.

"There's still a lot that can be gained, and we intend to continue to pursue that, where those opportunities persist and where there is potential for other partners to step into this."

Labor Leader Bill Shorten insists the Australian pursuit of the TPP is a "waste of time" as the TPP is "dead in the water".

But as a slogan, is "Australia first" a waste of time? Clearly not, Shorten has used the phrase too.

It is most likely not the last time we have heard "Australia first".

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