Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)
Donald Trump will pull out all the stops to give Scott Morrison the kind of brassy, pageant-filled welcome only the United States can give.
The US president will host the prime minister in Washington DC this week for formal meetings and an official state dinner – just the second Mr Trump has thrown in his nearly three years in office.
There will be no less than three official welcomes within his first 24 hours in the American capital, complete with red carpet on the airport tarmac.
The full state dinner in the grounds of the White House is expected to be an “intimate” affair with about 100 guests.
Australians invited include billionaire businessman Anthony Pratt, astronaut Andy Thomas and champion driver Will Power.
Mr Morrison will also lunch with Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and have a briefing with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and top intelligence officials.
Australia sees the all-out high-profile arrangements as a recognition of the solidity of the partnership between the two countries.
“The events that will be held there are a recognition of the relationship between Australia and the United States,” Mr Morrison told his coalition colleagues in Canberra on Tuesday.
“We meet our side of the relationship in our contribution to the alliance and we are there as equals and as partners.”
Such formal invitations are a rarity for Australian leaders and foreign relations expert Emma Shortis says it’s telling that one has come now.
“Australian PMs tend to get invited to these swanky events when US presidents want to demonstrate to the world – and perhaps themselves – that they have a least one uncomplicated friend who will stand by them, no matter what,” the RMIT research fellow said.
“This weekend, Morrison is sure to play that role well.”
Australia believes it is an ally to the US that pulls its weight – something Mr Trump has accused other countries of not doing – and a model economic partner that imports more from the US than it exports.
These twin strands of the strategic and economic partnerships will underpin the wide-ranging discussions.
Mr Morrison hopes to keep the US focused on the Indo-Pacific, seeing the very presence of the global giant in the region as an anchor for security and stability.
It’s anticipated he will announce stronger mechanisms to engage with the US in the Indo-Pacific, along with a new partnership on space exploration around technology and critical minerals.
Labor wants Mr Morrison to remind the president that Australian jobs are at risk from the escalating trade tensions between the US and China.
Australia’s foray into the space industry is a subplot of the trip, with Mr Morrison set to visit the NASA headquarters and Mr Pratt’s new billion-dollar paper factory in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the hometown of Neil Armstrong.
Mr Morrison will also meet business people at a number of events, including a reception in New York that Rupert Murdoch is expected to attend, a keynote speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and a visit to the Bunker Labs program that helps veterans develop business ideas.
At the United Nations, he will deliver Australia’s national statement and attend events relating to terrorist and extremist violence and ocean protection.
He will attend a reception for Pacific Island leaders hosted by Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama – who has just visited Canberra – one for Commonwealth nations hosted by British prime minister Boris Johnson, and Mr Trump’s UN leaders’ event.
At the end of his travels, Mr Morrison will indulge his idolisation of former US president Theodore Roosevelt with a quick visit to his home, Sagamore Hill.