Trump Craves Reagan-Thatcher ‘Special Relationship’ With May
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President-elect Donald Trump told his British counterpart he wished to rekindle the kind of relationship Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan shared in the 1980s.
He told Prime Minister Theresa May that the U.K. is a “very, very special place for me and for our country” in the phone call at 1:45 p.m. London time, according to an e-mail from May’s office. Trump added that it would be “the greatest possible honor” to host her in Washington “as soon as possible.”
The term ‘special relationship’ has been used to describe Anglo-American ties since Winston Churchill. Thatcher and Reagan however shared a unique affinity, so it’s telling that Trump evoked it. The Republican winner of the U.S. election has praised Brexit and indicated the U.K. would be at the front of the queue when it comes to trade deals.
Who reaches out first, and in what way, offers diplomatic clues on how different governments will relate to his administration. Some with enthusiasm: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent him a telegram of congratulations within an hour of his victory being announced, Ireland’s Enda Kenny beat May to the phone. Others appear more circumspect: Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande sent letters.
Others still have no choice but to reach out quickly. Take Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in neighboring Canada. The two nations have a lot to discuss, starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump bashed during his campaign and says he wants to tear up. Then there is the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Barack Obama nixed but that Trump instead wants to revisit.
“If the Americans want to talk about Nafta, I’m more than happy to talk about it,” Trudeau told reporters in Nova Scotia, where he touched upon the contents of the conversation.
In her call to Trump, May stressed the importance of trade and investment with the U.S. as the U.K. negotiates its exit from the European Union, with which it wants to continue to do business without allowing the free movement of labor.
While Trump has threatened a trade war over what he called China’s “rape” of the U.S. manufacturing sector, he’s intimated he would give Britons preferential treatment.
“I think we should take what the President-elect has had to say about his feelings for our country at face value,” U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said in Belgrade on Thursday. “He is after all a deal maker, he wants to do a free trade deal and I think this is a great opportunity for us in the U.K. to build on that relationship with America.”
May also highlighted that the bonds between the U.S. and U.K. are about “so much more” than trade and alluded to the military and cultural links between the two nations.
Despite the assertions of a close relationship, opposition lawmakers pointed out Trump apparently prioritized calls to other allies such as Egypt, South Korea and Turkey. It took more than a day for him to speak to the U.K. leader.
Asian nations will want to know how much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric is matched by his actions once in office. While he’s threatened to review the U.S. military presence in South Korea and Japan, reports issued afterward from Japan, South Korea and Australia indicated Trump reassured them of his commitment to decades-long alliances.
Not everyone is in a hurry to pick up the phone. Trump, who has promised to declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, has yet to hear from President Xi Jinping.
--With assistance from Gordana Filipovic and Misha Savic To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at firstname.lastname@example.org, Henry Meyer in Moscow at email@example.com. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Amy Teibel