Ambassador expects no change to Malta-US relations under Trump

Ambassador Kathleen Hill insists US President Donald Trump cares about refugees, but wants to see thorough vetting in place

US Ambassador G. Kathleen Hill expands on some of Donald Trump's policies
US Ambassador G. Kathleen Hill expands on some of Donald Trump's policies

There should be no marked changes in bilateral relations between Malta and the United States under US President Donald Trump, even if he is “out of the norm when compared to previous presidents”, the US Ambassador to Malta, G. Kathleen Hill, said on Thursday.

The Ambassador, who appeared on Saviour Balzan’s current affairs programme Xtra, aired on TVM, said that – from her experience – such relations hardly ever changed upon the election of a new president, although the order of priorities could be different.

Confronted with European Commission president Donald Tusk’s claim – that the “worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable” – Hill said that Donald Trump has only been president for two weeks and was still putting his team together.

She said the US’s top foreign policy was national security, as evidenced by some of the executive orders President Trump has signed since taking office on 20 January.

On trade, Hill said that people needed to realise that many Americans voted for Trump because they were worried about trade agreements that had been signed previously.

Ambassador: 'Donald Trump loves refugees'
Ambassador: 'Donald Trump loves refugees'

“Donald Trump has taken us out of the TPP (trans-Pacific Partnership deal put together by the previous president, Barack Obama) and has said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA,” she said.

As to the resurgence of defunct industries like steel, Hill said the US had a lot of options on the table to consider.

With reference to matters close to Malta, the ambassador said that new suspension of visas for Libya was only a temporary measure for 90 days.

She pointed out that visas for officials, including Libyan government officials and UN representatives, were still being processed.

“The US has committed to seeing Libya become a viable state once again,” Hill said. “But the primary focus of the US in Libya remains ISIL (ISIS) and is still focused on counter-ISIL efforts.”

On refugees, she said the Trump administration was still evaluating its refugee policy, although the President had already announced the country would be accepting 50,000 refugees in 2017.

“Donald Trump cares about refugees, but wants to ensure that the US is vetting anyone coming into country as thoroughly as possible,” Hill said. “You need to let the administration work these things out.”

She also said that although the Trump administration had not yet established an environmental policy, they do have plans for the protection of the environment.

And in a final comment on the media, and the emergence of new buzzwords like ‘fake news’ and alternative truth’, Hill said the US was facing a change in its capital, Washington D.C.

“Donald Trump is out of the norm compared to other presidents we had, having no previous political background,” she said. “And the news media is also still figuring out how cover this new president.”

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