For Australia to successfully influence the Trump administration, Australian political leaders will need to invest more personal time in Washington with the figures that command the president’s attention. Critical in this allocation of effort is the need to focus on individuals likely to last the distance with a frequently volatile president. But they should also focus on Congress, which is home to often overlooked political allies committed to moderating Trump’s “America First” agenda.
President Trump’s modus operandi and the idiosyncrasies of his government render Australia’s traditional patterns of engagement unsuitable. Where the Obama and Bush administrations relied on bureaucratic personnel and process for policymaking, there is now a paucity of personnel in key senior roles across the administration and the typical interagency process is not in place. As such, working-level engagement with the US government by Australian bureaucrats counts for less than it did in the past.
This report offers a roadmap for Australian political engagement with Washington in the Trump era. Rather than psychoanalysing the president or speculating as to which advisers are waxing and waning in influence, it looks at the institutional factors that will shape the US-Australia relationship under the 45th president and considers how Australia should adjust.