Dislike of Trump is not just a problem for the US

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson comes face to face with Wellington's weather after landing in New Zealand.
POOL/LLOYD BURR

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson comes face to face with Wellington's weather after landing in New Zealand.

OPINION: The visit was short and the smiles were wide when Prime Minister Bill English and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met at Premier House.

But the warmth of their meeting was not matched outside. Drenching rain and grey skies greeted Tillerson's arrival and the locals were feeling unfriendly. Travelling US media were taken aback by the number of people flipping Tillerson's motorcade the bird as he passed.

Tillerson's  trip to Wellington was supposed to be a show of friendship; a signal that the new US administration thinks its relationship with New Zealand is an important one. That he took the time out to visit, even for a few hours, so early in the term of this Trump administration is seen as significant. A symbol of business as usual.

All smiles between Bill English and Rex Tillerson but much of New Zealand not so warmly disposed.
Mark Tantrum

All smiles between Bill English and Rex Tillerson but much of New Zealand not so warmly disposed.

That should be good news for the Government, given that both sides have only recently put the hard feelings of the anti nuclear years behind us. It's been a hard won return to normal.

READ MORE:
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But Trump's deep unpopularity has potentially thrown a new rock in the road.

It's not just that people dislike Trump; a Stuff/Massey survey of nearly 40,000 people reveals the Trump effect is spilling over into our view of America's place in the world. 

That adds up to a very big domestic headache for our Government, which has traditionally looked to the US to take a leadership role in the region.

English says he was reassured by Tillerson's assurances that the US is not looking to retreat from the region, despite the more isolationist drum beaten by Trump so far.

Tillerson in fact pledged that we would see more of the US in the region, not less. In his deep Texas drawl, Tillerson also sought to reassure on trade and climate change, insisting the US retreat from the Paris accord and Trans Pacific Partnership did not represent a retreat from the US commitment to either issue.

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But that will unlikely win our Government any political points, and it will struggle to win broad support - either politically or among the wider population - if New Zealand is asked to follow an unpopular US administration on matters like defence and security.

With the US signalling a step up in Afghanistan and the Middle-East that problem has already landed in English's lap.

But National also knows what it is like to stand with the US over an issue that is unpopular at home; it suffered electorally for years because it sided with the US over New Zealand's anti-nuclear stand.

That's a place it won't want to visit again.

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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