Trump has diminished the United States' position on the world stage, according to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Trump has diminished the United States' position on the world stage, according to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
  • Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the US has "less influence" on the world stage than before Donald Trump became president.
  • Turnbull told Business Insider that the US had reduced its influence over global affairs under Trump, and he criticized Trump's "isolationist" decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization.
  • He said Trump should not pursue a "witch hunt" against China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Turnbull, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2018, also said people in the US had paid "a very heavy price" in coronavirus deaths for the country's failure to lock down sooner.

The US now has "less influence" on the world stage because of President Donald Trump's leadership, at least in the view of former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull, who was Australian prime minister from 2015 to 2018, told Business Insider that Trump's presidency had caused the US to withdraw from the world.

"The reality is the US is a country with enormous influence," Turnbull told Insider.

"But it has less influence today than it did before Mr. Trump was president. That is in large part because under his presidency, the US has sought to have less influence."

Turnbull said Trump was pursuing "a very strong isolationist, 'don't tread on me' tradition in US politics."


He added: "If Trump pulls out of the Paris climate treaty, pulls out of World Health Organization, and seeks to undo multilateral trade deals, then all of that means America has less influence."

Turnbull also suggested that Trump had been too aggressive toward China amid growing calls from Washington for a global investigation into how the coronavirus outbreak began in the city of Wuhan.

Turnbull said that he supported such an investigation and that he believed there was a "bureaucratic cover-up" in Beijing but added that an investigation had to be "no blame, no shame" for it to be successful.

"President Trump, for reasons that are entirely understandable, has sought to really blame China for failure in respect to the virus — and it may be that some of his criticisms are fair," Turnbull said.

He added, however: "The bottom line is we all have a vested interest in finding out what happened.


"And if the WHO wants to have a free and open access to medical personnel, history, and records in China — and indeed anywhere else — then it's going to have to be done on a no-blame, no-shame basis.

"It cannot be a witch hunt or trying to push the blame onto any one country. Turning this into a blame game will encourage people to pull the shutters down, and we won't get the answers we want."

US paying 'a very high price' for slow lockdown

Trump has diminished the United States' position on the world stage, according to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
President Donald Trump speaks during a tree planting ceremony in recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day on the South Lawn of the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Turnbull also criticized Trump's record on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, saying the US was too slow to impose COVID-19 lockdowns and had "paid a very heavy price."

"The one thing we do know is that by January, everybody knew what was happening in Wuhan. Everyone," he said in an interview with Business Insider at the Reshape web summit last week.

"So in a sense, everyone in the world apart from China was at the same starting line. And yet some countries have handled this much better than others. And obviously that's going to be a matter of leaders being accountable.


"Those leaders that dilly-dallied and didn't lock down quickly, that didn't have enough PPE. Their countries and their people in many cases have paid a very heavy price for it."

Turnbull contrasted the US and the UK with New Zealand, Australia, and Taiwan, where the COVID-19 death toll is in the hundreds. New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said last week that the country had eliminated the virus.

US states are continuing to reopen economically even with the virus spreading across the country, with several states reporting increases in new cases. As of Monday, at least 117,858 people in the US had died after catching COVID-19.

In the UK, at least 41,698 people have died after catching the virus, according to government figures. Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to gradually lift lockdown measures, with nonessential retail such as clothing and book shops reopening Monday.

"It's going to be very clear who was prepared and who did the right thing, and who didn't," Turnbull said.


"It's perfectly clear that the countries that moved quickly to shut down, and moved quickly to quarantine and get control of the spread of the virus, have done better."

Turnbull mentioned the remarks of Neil Ferguson, the former scientific adviser to the UK government who last week said introducing the lockdown a week earlier would have halved the country's COVID-19 death toll.

"I was reading just a day or so ago epidemiologists saying that if the UK had locked down a week earlier, you would have had half the deaths you currently have, which is obviously a very large number now in the UK."