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World Leaders Welcome Trump's Measured Tone, Await Details of 'America First' Policies

  • Henry Ridgwell

World leaders have been digesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress Tuesday night, which touched on the United States' commitment to NATO and his plan to forge a new global trade system.

Trump’s speech may have been directed at a domestic audience — the president repeatedly pledged to put America first — but this was a performance watched around the world.

"It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe," the American president noted. "We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism. But our partners must meet their financial obligations."

The warmer tone has been welcomed, says Ian Bond of the London-based Center for European Reform, who spoke to VOA via Skype.

"He didn’t repeat the suggestion that it was obsolete and he did stress the importance of NATO. But underneath that he’s still talking in terms of NATO countries paying their bills, as though America is a kind of bodyguard service," Bond said.


Defense buildup, China

President Trump pledged one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

"Even many Republicans, I think, are telling him that it’s a mistake to gut U.S. overseas development assistance and the State Department in order to fund this very large increase in military spending," said Bond.

A scaling back of U.S. involvement overseas is likely to be seen as an opportunity for the world's second largest economy, says David Kelly, director of research at China Policy, a Beijing-based research group.

"Once again Trump has left large spaces open for China to, in a sense, exploit in diplomatic terms," he said.

Beijing was singled out by Donald Trump as he repeated accusations that the global trade system is not benefiting America.

FILE - Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China, Sept. 24, 2016.

FILE - Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China, Sept. 24, 2016.



"We've lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001," said Trump.

Trump did not directly mention the travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim- majority countries that was struck down by the courts.

No mention of Africa

Beyond his vow to extinguish the Islamic State terror group, there was no mention of Africa — a region looking for direction on Trump’s future engagement, says Steven Gruzd of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

"We haven’t really seen very much at all out of this administration in this first month on what his Africa policy is going to be. We don’t have an Assistant Secretary of State," he said. "We have many ambassadorships that are vacant, South Africa is one of them."

The more measured tone of the speech has been generally welcomed. But analysts say many world leaders want more policy detail on President Trump’s promise of a "new chapter of American greatness."

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