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Australia leader urges U.S. to maintain global leadership role

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaks during the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaks during the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)
By Zeke Miller and Ken Thomas Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Australia’s prime minister on Saturday urged the United States to maintain its global leadership role and spoke out against a growing sentiment of isolation in America and elsewhere while highlighting the importance of international partnerships and alliances.

Malcolm Turnbull also encouraged Washington to consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade pact that President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. from in 2017.

“American leadership in the world is in our interests, but it’s in yours too,” Turnbull told a meeting of U.S. governors. He quoted Trump’s presidential revision of his campaign slogan, saying, “‘America First’ does not mean ‘America alone.’”

Turnbull acknowledged that the U.S. would not be quick to return to the trade agreement, given that Trump has expressed reservations about multilateral deals, but said he hoped there would be a way back into it for the U.S.

“Other than our example, we don’t presume to give you political advice,” Turnbull said as he lauded the benefits of such free trade agreements to Australia.

Turnbull, kicking off the National Governors Association meeting, highlighted “100 years of mate-ship” between the U.S. and Australia. He met with Trump at the White House on Friday, when Trump praised Australia’s “merit-based” immigration policies and suggested that Congress follow Australia’s lead.

Turnbull returned the favor, calling on his country to “go further” in cutting corporate tax rates, after the U.S. took similar action in December. Turnbull complimented Trump by describing the president’s decision to cut taxes “one of the most powerful arguments” he is using to persuade Australian lawmakers to further reduce business taxes.

Most of Australia’s territorial premiers are participating in the conference, along with a group of CEOs from Australia and the U.S.

The governors meeting has taken on an international flavor with Trump in the White House. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first world leader to address the governors’ group last year. Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, was to give a speech Sunday, and governors and premiers from Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Japan were attending the meeting.

International officials are increasingly looking to forge ties with U.S. governors and big city mayors in the age of Trump’s “America First” policies. It’s an end run, or at least a shift in focus, around Washington, as foreign leaders react to Trump’s unpredictability and occasional lack of interest in the sort of global cooperation they’re seeking.

“Certainly, there’s some change in policy at the national level with this administration creating a bit of change and foreign governments are wanting to interpret that,” said Scott Pattison, the NGA’s executive director and chief executive officer. He said it has resulted in an increased interest on the part of U.S. governors for direct ties with foreign officials.

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