From Nigel Farage to ripping up China rulebook: How Donald Trump has handled US foreign policy after election


Donald Trump has broken with decades of US foreign policy by speaking with Taiwan’s president

Donald Trump has broken with decades of US foreign policy by speaking on the phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the president-elect’s biggest move on the world stage since winning the election last month.

The call, which was likely to infuriate China and could complicate relations, was the first such contact with Taiwan since President Jimmy Carter adopted a one-China policy in 1979.

A foreign policy novice, Mr Trump’s early moves on international relations and national security are being closely watched by both US allies and adversaries.

Here are the ways the president-elect has made waves with his handling of foreign affairs since his election on November 8.

‘Historic’ call with Taiwan’s president

It was not known whether Mr Trump’s "historic" call with the Taiwanese president was a deliberate shift in the "one-China" policy or a naive mistake. Either way, it was likely to rile China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province.

Mr Trump’s transition team issued a statement saying the two had noted that "close economic, political and security ties exist between Taiwan and the United States".

The president-elect responded to criticism on Twitter, saying: "Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call."

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr Trump was entitled to change policy, but his approach was potentially dangerous.

"Foreign policy consistency is a means, not an end. It’s not sacred. Thus, it’s Trump’s right to shift policy, alliances, strategy," he said in an note on Twitter. However, he added: "What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start."

Christopher R Hill, former assistant Secretary of State for East Asia under George W Bush, also suggested the move was reckless. "This is an example of winging it in the extreme. Hope Trump doesn’t feel he has to double down on this judgment error," he tweeted.

‘Snubbing’ May and backing Farage

Mr Trump spoke by phone to Theresa May the day after the election – but only after he had first called the leaders of nine other countries, including Ireland and Australia.

The delay in contacting the British prime minister, which was widely viewed as a snub, raised questions over the "special relationship" between the two countries.

In the weeks after the election, Mr Trump has also backed Nigel Farage to be Britain’s ambassador to the US after the former Ukip leader became the first British politician to meet the president-elect. Downing Street has insisted there is “no vacancy”.

Mrs May has faced criticism from her own Cabinet for refusing to use Mr Farage as an informal go-between despite his close relationship with Mr Trump.

When the Prime Minister spoke with Mr Trump again this week, sources made clear that Mr Farage was not mentioned during the conversation. In a sign that diplomatic protocols are once again being respected, Downing Street released a transcript of the call and said the two politicians want “to build close relationships” and “establish a regular dialogue”.

  • “I didn’t go [to the Mississippi rally] to endorse Donald Trump, but he did, after I did my bit, he did say to me, you’ll be my friend for life. Well I tell you what, that’s not bad.” – September 2016

  • “I thought he was like a big silverback gorilla prowling the studio” – October 2016, describing Trump’s performance in the second presidential debate

  • “Trump likes the UK, talks about his mother’s Scottish birth, owns golf courses here and is entirely comfortable with our culture. More importantly still, he supported Brexit and he says post-Brexit Britain will be at the front of the queue when it comes to trade relationships. What a pleasant change this will make from Obama and Clinton who have looked down and sneered at us.” – November 2016

  • “If he did offer me a job I would quite like to be his ambassador to the European Union. I think I would do that job very well.” – November 2016, joking about the role he could play in Trump’s administration

Trump would ‘love’ to visit Pakistan soon

Mr Trump risked angering India this week after apparently telling Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister he would "love" to visit the country soon.

He described Pakistanis as "one of the most intelligent people", according to a Pakistani statement on the call. It said the president-elect had asked Mr Sharif to convey his message to the Pakistani people that "they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people".

Mr Trump’s transition team offered few details about Wednesday’s conversation with Mr Sharif. A three-sentence statement called the conversation "productive" and said Mr Trump is "looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif".

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours have risen sharply recently over Kashmir, which is divided between them and is claimed by both in its entirety. The two nations have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Meeting Abe … with Ivanka

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, was the first state leader to meet the president-elect face-to-face. Despite reports before the meeting that the Japanese delegation had difficulties co-ordinating with Mr Trump’s transition team, Mr Abe said afterwards that he was convinced Mr Trump was someone "in whom I can have great confidence".

"We were able to have a very candid talk over a substantial amount of time. We held it in a very warm atmosphere," Mr Abe said.

The meeting raised eyebrows, however, when official photographs showed the billionaire’s daughter Ivanka sitting in on the talks. She and her businessman husband Jared Kushner were also seen chatting and laughing with the Japanese prime minister’s delegation at Trump Tower.

"Conflict of interest is an understatement," tweeted Matt Ortega, a member of the digital team for Trump’s defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

While he insists Ivanka, Donald Jr and Eric will hold no formal posts in his administration, the president-elect has given Americans good reason to believe his adult children will continue to play an important role at his side in the White House.

As a candidate, Mr Trump savaged Japan in August, stating that if the US is attacked, all Japan would do is "sit home and watch Sony television".

Has he invited Duterte to White House?

US relations with the Philippines have been rocky in recent months, with Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte – who is waging a bloody war on crime by encouraging his citizens to carry out vigilante killings – calling President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch".

Mr Trump’s relationship with the Philippines president has got off to a much warmer start, it seems. An aide to Mr Duterte said on Friday the US president-elect had invited the Philippines leader to the White House next year during a "very engaging, animated" phone conversation.

A statement issued by Mr Trump’s transition team, however, made no mention of an invitation.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Mr Duterte’s special adviser, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details.

Sometimes called the "Trump of the East" because of his mercurial ways, Mr Duterte has threatened repeatedly to sever US defence ties, saying he "hates" having foreign soldiers in his country.

The Philippines is chairing the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year and it is common for the US to extend an invitation to the chair ahead of the US-Asean summit. Philippines expert Ernest Bower, of the Bower Group Asia consultancy, told Reuters this may have been fortuitous on Mr Trump’s part.

"My guess is he was more interested in making a point – that he could deal with Duterte in ways Obama couldn’t – than in the strategic wisdom of driving alignment with the Asean chair ahead of the Aseans and East Asian summits."

A lot of ‘catching up to do’

Mr Trump has been accused of having "a lot of catching up to do" after reportedly receiving just two classified intelligence briefings in the two weeks following his election.

The Republican received an initial briefing in the days after his election and a second session two weeks later in New York but has declined other opportunities to get up to speed on global developments and security threats, the Washington Post reported.

The two briefings is notably lower than his predecessors, according to current and former US officials speaking to the newspaper.