Monday 23 October, 1045 – 1145

The panel discussed whether, under President Trump, the US appears to be withdrawing from its historical role as the underwriter of the post-war liberal consensus in favour of defining the world as one where the US must and will compete against others, including allies, for national advantage.

It was argued that President Trump is often seen as a "catalyst of change" but the reality is that he is in fact a reflection of what is happening economically, and that there is a growing sense that the US is finished with paying for the security of the global community - now seen as a "burden".

However, the jury is still out on whether US power abroad is actually in decline, and it was noted that the long history of American might is not easy to replicate. No-one - not even Russia or China - are ready to step into those shoes just because there may be a vacancy.

It was noted that any absence of world leadership is worrying and that acting solely in your own national interest to the exclusion of others does not bring the co-operation that is needed. However, it was felt that it is not America's presence globally that is fundamentally under review, more the balance of what it gives to the world in terms of resources.

This potential strategic shift in world order – away from the US as the world’s superpower helping create a ‘global community’ - could result in shared power and shared influence, which may lead to a safer world than one which tries to centralize power. 

But, despite the views of President Trump, there is still continuity in US foreign policy, and the country is still tied to a number of international obligations which are not simply going to disappear.


"People think Donald Trump is a catalyst of change. He is not. He is reflective of what is happening economically, and if you think the next president is going to be different, you are gravely mistaken."
The Hon Mary Beth Long

"The US has been willing to behave in an altruistic way but it is not willing to carry that burden any longer .... However, reality intervenes and the President is transitional. The facts are going to be more dominant than the theory."
Alan Wm. Wolff

"The jury is out on US power abroad. The US is going through some changes just like the rest of the world is. There is clearly a disgust in the US with traditional bureaucracy but our interests are broad and global. Americans do believe they have an active and important role globally."
The Hon Mary Beth Long

"The US has been happy to take that international burden because it gave it power and influence in the world. If America is now saying 'enough' that does say something about the absence of world leadership which is very concerning."
Baroness Manningham-Buller

"Not every country can prioritise its national interests to the exclusion of others. They will run into each other and there won't be the co-operation that is needed. We are not isolationist in the US. The young are in favour of international engagement, whereas the older white males are not. The young have the new world that the old do not have. They have the internet, not factory jobs."
Alan Wm. Wolff

"There is continuity in US policy. Does Trump want to make significant changes? Yes. But he is not saying 'no agreements' just 'different agreements'."
Alan Wm. Wolff