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President Donald Trump pledges US-first foreign policy

Economic protectionism and the fight against Islamist terrorism will form the heart of US foreign policy, Donald Trump said in his inauguration speech in Washington on Friday (20 January).

In a brief address in front of the Capitol building, he issued “a new decree to every foreign capital” that “from this day forward, we will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth”.

He said that “American hands and American labour” would “build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across this wonderful nation”.

“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American”, he said.

He attacked globalisation, saying that it had impoverished the US and its working classes.

He said open markets had “made other countries rich” and that “one by one, the factories shuddered and left our shores without leaving anything for the millions of American workers left behind”.

He also indicated that he would give less in foreign aid, saying that America had spent “trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair”.

Trump’s words are likely to spell the end of talks on an EU-US free trade treaty.

The pact had been described by the former US administration and by EU leaders as a strategic move to deepen the transatlantic alliance.

The inaugural speech was also keenly watched for Trump’s intentions on Nato and on Russia.

He had called the Western alliance “obsolete” and praised Russia prior to his inauguration despite its aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

He indicated on Friday that he would not abandon Nato, but that he was willing to build a new alliance with Russia to combat jihadism.

He added that, terrorism aside, the US would take less of an interest in foreign affairs in general and that European countries would have to spend more on their own defence.

“We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth”, he said.

For many decades we’ve … subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military”, he said.

Trump, a 70-year old real estate billionaire and reality TV star, described his victory as the victory of the common man over the elite.

“We are taking power from Washington and giving it back to you, the people”, he said.

He promised to stamp out gun crime and drug abuse and to invest in schools.

He also said the US was capable of “unlocking the mysteries of space” and of “freeing the earth from the misery of disease”.

After a divisive campaign, in which he whipped up racist hatred at town hall rallies, he made an appeal for social unity.

“Whether we are black, brown, or white we all bleed the same red blood of patriots”, he said.

Trump’s campaign had accused outgoing president Barack Obama of creating the Islamic State jihadist group among other unsubstantiated slurs.

He said on Friday, in a conciliatory gesture toward Obama and Obama’s Democratic Party, that Obama had been “magnificent” in helping him to prepare the White House transition.

The day was marred by violent protests by scattered groups of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as by gay rights and women’s rights protesters, which led to about 90 arrests.

An early reaction from Europe also indicated that Trump’s speech would not go dow well.

“Hostile inauguration speech. We can’t sit around & hope for US support & cooperation. Europe must take its destiny & security in its own hands”, Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal leader in the European Parliament and former Belgian prime minister said on Twitter.

Andrew Rettman/EUObserver

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