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"New kid on the block" - David Cameron - enjoys a perfect start on the international stage

Screen shot 2010-06-27 at 21.20.59David Cameron made his debut on the international stage at the weekend and - don't take my word for it - the BBC's North America Editor, Mark Mardell, said it was incredibly successful. Stephanie Flanders, the BBC's Economics Editor, said that the Prime Minister's advisers could not have expected things to go better. Cameron looked "very youthful", she said and it was notable how President Obama backed the UK's decision to start repaying its borrowings.  

Some highlights from Mr Cameron's 48 hours in Canada:

Bonded with Harper. Canada's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Cameron's most natural ally in the world. The Tory PM called his Canadian opposite number "an old friend" in an article for the Globe and Mail.

4737166852_00bcab219d Bonded with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited David Cameron to visit India in July and thanked the British Prime Minister for backing India's hopes to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Bonded with China. Mr Cameron received an invitation from President Hu to visit China in November. The Chinese President expressed gratitude for a phone call from Mr Cameron on his second day in office. "This fully shows the great importance the new government of the UK, and in particular yourself, assign to the relationship with China. We highly appreciate that," President Hu said to Mr Cameron.

Bonded with Russia. After a bilateral, President Medvedev said: "We agreed that our bilateral relationship required the personal attention of the leaders of the two countries both in terms of the economy and other issues, and we are determined to make them more productive and intense."

Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 07.44.28 Bonded with Obama. In their first face-to-face meeting with each other since Cameron became Prime Minister there was good personal chemistry with the American President. Mr Cameron was given a lift on Marine One when fog grounded other air transport. Tory advisers were delighted at the favour and Mr Cameron joked: "The special relationship took off when we met on the helicopter". The two men also agreed that a healthy BP was in everyone's interests. [Watch a clip of the Obama/Cameron press event].

The communiqué backed David Cameron's position on Afghanistan. It is clear that Cameron wants the earliest dignified exit from Afghanistan. Arriving in Canada he said he wanted troops out within five years. The communique backed his language on building up Afghanistan's own security forces before then.

The G20 communiqué also recognised the need for indebted countries to repay debts promptly. This was welcomed by George Osborne. The Press Association reports that, during the G8 leaders' dinner, "Mr Obama singled out last week's UK Budget as an example of the kind of necessary courageous action needed to restore health to the world economy." Germany is also reducing its debts with Chancellor Merkel repaying €80bn over four years.

Progress on banking reform. The IMF said progress in Canada meant new capital rules would be agreed at the November summit of G20 nations in Seoul.

Cameron argued that free trade is the real stimulus needed by the world economy. In the Globe and Mail he wrote: "World leaders have made previous commitments on Doha in good faith – but despite almost a decade of talks, there’s been no breakthrough. I believe that if we are now to travel that final mile, we need fresh thinking and renewed political leadership. We must all put more on the table. This could include looking again at areas such as countries opening their services sector to foreign companies. Or we could consider whether specific areas – such as allowing full duty-free and quota-free access to exports from least-developed countries – could be tied up more quickly." [BBC video].

The Falklands is not up for grabs. We do not know if the issue was discussed when Mr Cameron met his Argentinian counterpart but, reports The Scotsman, Mr Cameron intended to make it clear that the issue of sovereignty was not up for discussion, if he did.


4734054314_ae3c4fa3d8 The direction of UK foreign policy under David Cameron became clearer this weekend because of the summit and because of an interview that William Hague gave to The Sunday Telegraph. Mr Hague's interview underlined the two big currents in the government's worldview:

  • Multipolarity. The UK wants to be less focused on Europe, the USA and the Middle East. India, China, Brazil and other emerging powers will receive much more attention.
  • The rise of soft power. Bruised by involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing deep cuts to Britain's military capacity William Hague states that "as well as trade, relations can be maintained through education, culture, sport, diplomacy and military co-operation."


The best comment on the summit (and summitry in general) came from The Telegraph's Geoffrey Lean. Noting the G8's historical failure to deliver on aid commitments made at Gleneagles he said that the poorer members of the G20 aren't stupid; Why should they agree to sacrifices on climate change when they know the richer nations don't honour their own promises? Indeed.

Tim Montgomerie

Oh, and Mr Cameron watched a football match with Angela Merkel. At least we avoided penalties, he said.


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