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My job is not to represent the world but to put America’s interests first, says US President Donald Trump

On international commerce, Trump said he believed in free trade but brought up his criticism that it was not currently fair and led to loss of millions of American jobs

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America's new President Donald address a rally
Trump addressing a debate, wikimedia

Washington, March 1, 2017: Stepping away from decades of US insistence on engineering the world according to its perceptions, President Donald trump said his job is not to represent the world but to put America’s interests first while respecting the right of nations to chart their own course.

In his annual State of the Union Address to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Trump said: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the US.”

Presenting a gentler version of his America First policy, he said Washington will “respect the sovereign rights of nations”.

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“Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people — and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path,” he said.

“But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.”

Instead of isolationism, the President said: “Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world.”

For this, he said: “America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.”

As for American leadership, he said it will be “based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe”.

These elements of his emerging foreign policy mark a break from previous Democratic and Republican administrations’ policy of nation-building and exporting democracy.

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In practice, though, these policy claims mired the US in wars even as they exposed the hypocrisy of supporting dictatorial regimes where it suited the economic or foreign policy interests.

Tuesday’s speech also toned down the strident ‘America First’ agenda that he presented at his inaugural address on January 20.

But he reiterated his promise “to demolish and destroy” the Islamic State, which he described as “a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs”.

“We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet,” he said.

While offering continued support to the NATO and other allies in an attempt to allay fears, Trump reiterated his condition they should meet their share of the financial obligations.

“And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that,” he asserted.

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 “We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific — to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.”

On international commerce, Trump said he believed in free trade but brought up his criticism that it was not currently fair and led to loss of millions of American jobs.

“I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore,” he said.

“I am going to bring back millions of jobs. We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.” (IANS)

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Border Security Bill: Debate Furies Over U.S. Presidential “Emergency Powers”

Well it's clear one side is losing and that's the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a border security bill, averting a government shutdown on Friday, but plans to formally declare the southern U.S. border a “national emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

The declaration would clear the way for Trump to authorize new funding for a permanent physical barrier. The move would end contentious negotiations with Congress over funding for the wall, but some legal analysts worry it will set a dangerous precedent for presidents trying to negotiate with Congress.

In January, during a 35-day partial government shutdown caused by a dispute over border wall funding, VOA spoke with John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brooking Institute, about the legal issues around a possible emergency declaration by the president.

QUESTION: What powers does a president have to declare a national emergency? Could he simply order government funds to be used to build a border wall?

So there are really two questions here. First, under the national emergencies act, the president has a fairly broad power to declare a national emergency. Now the declaration of that emergency is simply that — a declaration. And according to a pretty firm reading of that law, it’s hard to see where there is an exception to the president’s ability to do it.

Donald Trump
In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown. Pixabay

The next part of that, though, involves the powers that the president can exercise under that law and there are obvious limitations on that, constitutional limitations and other limitations within the law that the president can’t violate. And unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we haven’t experienced serious questions about presidential power in this space. So it’s really left as an open question right now, in terms of the extent of presidential power that courts will need to sort out.

Q: Could Democrats block this in Congress? Is there any constitutional precedent for presidents simply going around Congress to fund a priority policy item?

So there is, within the law, the ability of Congress to stop a national emergency. It requires both houses of Congress to vote to say that the national emergency is over. Now democrats can certainly do that alone, in the House. They cannot, however, do it alone in the Senate, it would require several Republican votes.

However, this is the type of exercise of executive power that leaves a lot of Republicans uneasy. And you’re already starting to see those conversations among Senate Republicans, saying that if we’re all right with President Trump doing this over a border wall, would we also be all right with a Democratic president doing this over climate change or other issues?

And so I think it remains to be seen whether Congress will have the votes to stop presidential action in this area, whether they’ll have the political will to do it. But they certainly have the power to stop this type of behavior.

To the second part of your question, you know, presidents have tried to go around Congress in terms of spending money in the past or even moving money around within or across budget lines or accounts in the past.

And frequently presidents are stopped because the spending power in the constitution rests with the Congress and so this creates a real challenge for President Trump if he wants to start moving funds or re-appropriating funds or using funds that are not even appropriated, pushing up against that constitutional protection against that power. So he might have the power to declare a national emergency, but he cannot usurp the Constitution in the exercise of powers during that emergency.

The entrance to the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019.
The entrance to the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Q: On the politics of the current shutdown, is one side or the other winning? Which sides appears to have an advantage at the moment? How does it end?

Well it’s clear one side is losing and that’s the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

Also Read: Is 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Going To Be The Costliest In History?

A smaller percentage of Americans blame congressional Democrats and smaller still blame congressional Republicans. I think a lot of Americans look at this skeptically and say, “What has changed between the beginning of the president’s term and now that makes this such a dire emergency?” And I think it leaves a lot of Americans scratching their head. President Trump is playing to his base here, but unfortunately his base is a small percentage of the population. And most of the rest of the population is not with him on this issue of the wall. (VOA)