Reports indicate that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in New York City for the first time since the two spoke over the phone in January.
That phone conversation marked a particularly awkward point of contention between the two leaders, as Trump reportedly hung up on the Australian PM after Turnbull asked him to honor an agreement made between the two countries during the Obama administration. Trump deemed that request, which included the U.S.’ acceptance of 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center, a “dumb deal”- and even took to Twitter to publicly denounce its “absurdity.”
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Turnbull’s radically different recollection of the events that transpired during that phone call- coupled with the fact that the Australian was adamant that U.S. officials had previously agreed to uphold the arrangement- may have created somewhat tense relations between the two nations that have been allies since as far back as 1942.
In the upcoming meeting between the two men, sources indicate Trump will look to make amends for his rather impulsive statements. In fact, reports show that his administration has already stated that it will indeed honor the agreement Turnbull brought up- albeit reluctantly. Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence broke the news of the president’s turnaround in a statement he made while in Sydney last month.
“President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honor the agreement- that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement.”
Controversial U.S. press secretary Sean Spicer indicates that he looks forward to the meeting between the two nations, and claims that the countries have a lot in common, including “enduring bonds, deep friendship, and [a] close alliance.”
The meeting itself is part of a combined U.S.-Australia effort to honor the 75th anniversary of that 1942 battle- the Battle of the Coral Sea- that forged the two nations’ friendship. Historians claim that during the battle, U.S. and Australian air and sea forces worked together to successfully push Japanese navy and infantry troops away from the Australian coast. Their success initiated years of good will between the nations, and Australia has remained one of America’s most steadfast allies since World War II.
According to Turnbull, the phone call between him and the Trump administration did nothing to damage U.S. relations. He indicated that the relationship “remains robust,” and even additionally assured American reporters that Australia’s U.S. ties are indeed “very strong.” When asked how he felt about the president’s curtness, the 62-year-old had nothing to say. He did, however, seem to applaud Trump’s rather frank demeanor.
“It’s better that these things, these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately.”
But sources indicate that underneath the prime minister’s seemingly unbothered facade, there may actually lie feelings of contempt. Records show that Australia has a strict policy that excludes any and all refugees who come to the Australian mainland via boat from stepping on Australian soil. With the Obama agreement, the Turnbull administration had somewhere to send its refugees, giving them the means to rid themselves of the problems that come with housing such a large number of immigrants. Trump’s initial refusal to accept the immigrants, however (albeit temporary), meant the Australian government was ultimately forced to continue accommodating these foreigners for an additional three months- draining an already struggling economy of invaluable resources.
With the meeting set for later this afternoon, analysts are eager to see how the relatively new relationship between Turnbull and Trump plays out. Officials indicate that the two leaders will convene at the USS Intrepid, an original aircraft carrier from World War II. The massive vessel is docked near Manhattan.
Ironically, this will be President Trump’s first trip back to New York City since he entered office four months ago. Several protests regarding the president’s administration are planned around the city, and reports indicate security surrounding Trump’s arrival will be tight.
[Featured Image by Rajanish Kakade/AP Images]