May lauds the UK's special relationship with America as other word leaders approach Trump's win with caution
THERESA May was quick out of the blocks to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory, insisting Britain and America had an “enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise”.
While some foreign leaders could not contain their shock and others issued diplomatically crafted responses, the Prime Minister appeared to recognise there was an opportunity; a newcomer to the world scene might look to a trusted old ally for help and reassurance.
Mr Trump, whose mother was born on the Isle of Lewis, is a self-proclaimed anglophile. “Britain’s been a great ally,” he once declared. “With me, they’ll always be treated fantastically.”
The president-elect was one of few foreign politicians who urged Britons to choose Brexit and, indeed, described his own campaign for the White House as “Brexit plus plus plus”.
Mrs May could seek to captialise on the Brexit decision. In his intervention into the EU referendum campaign, Barack Obama notoriously said if the UK left the Brussels bloc, it would find itself at the “back of the queue” in terms of getting a transatlantic trade deal.
Mr Trump has publicly taken a different tack, saying: “You would certainly not be back of the queue, that I can tell you.”
Indeed, trade and the president-elect’s “America First” policy could arguably see the biggest change in how the country is perceived.
Under a protectionist plan, he has threatened to scrap several free trade agreements, including the one between the US, Canada and Mexico, which he blames for job losses. He has even suggested withdrawing America from the World Trade Organization.
Mr Trump is also in favour of taxing imports and has talked about imposing eye-watering tariffs of 45 per cent on goods from China and 35 per cent on those from Mexico to stop US companies moving jobs south of the border.
A race no doubt will now be on to see which country the new president visits first. The PM will be hoping Mr Trump plumps for Britain, possibly with a visit to Scotland thrown in.
Chief Eurocrats such Jean-Claude Juncker have already invited the president-elect over to Brussels for talks on US-EU relations.
In a warmly-worded joint statement with Donald Tusk, the European Council president, Mr Juncker, who heads the Commission, spoke of shared values and consolidating bridges with a hope America would “continue to invest in its partnerships with friends and allies to help make our citizens and the people of the world more secure and more prosperous”.
It is those two issues that worry foreign leaders most.
Deep concern has already been expressed at Mr Trump’s seeming dislike for Nato, branding it “obsolete”. He has suggested America should not abide by the treaty’s fundamental principle that members should come to the aid of another which is under attack. The president-elect is concerned that some countries are simply not spending enough on defence and are relying on the US to protect them.
But, particularly in eastern Europe, western democracies see Nato as the bulwark against an increasingly aggressive Russia. Yet Mr Trump has praised the leadership of Vladimir Putin. Indeed, the response in Moscow to the Republican candidate’s victory was positively glowing.
Relations between America and Russia have been strained to say the least under the Obama presidency given the two countries have backed rival sides in Syria’s civil war. Mr Trump has said little about what a better relationship could entail beyond a desire for a joint fight against the militants of Daesh.
The complexities of foreign policy are something Mr Trump has yet to face but they could be his biggest challenge.
He famously denounced Mr Obama’s sanctions-lifting deal with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions as “the worst I’ve ever seen” and insisted scrapping it would be his “number one priority”.
Yet to do so could have a major impact on the Middle East given Iran is a key player in the Syrian conflict and an arch-rival to Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Across the globe, many world leaders and ordinary citizens are hoping that the rhetoric of Donald Trump the candidate will be different to the words and actions of Donald Trump the president. Only time will tell whether or not the one-time reality TV star can become a true world statesman.