Fearing the Possibility of a President Trump or Cruz, Diplomats Scramble to Ink International Deals

Officials and diplomats from foreign governments are following the U.S. presidential race, and flooding lobbyists in Washington, D.C., with questions and concerns about the worrisome rise of White House GOP hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

As opposed to previous cycles, in which the global community looked on with curiosity, this election cycle is being viewed from abroad with fear and trepidation. Attempting to reassure foreign leaders during a trip to the Middle East last week, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said that Donald Trump is nothing to worry about. 

“Everybody asked me about Trump in terms of policy changes," Graham told reporters. "I said he is an outlier, don’t look at him.” 

The South Carolina Republican said the leaders he spoke to were “dumbfounded that somebody running for president of the United States would suggest that the United States ban everybody in their faith,” regarding Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States.

“A lot of what he says he’s going to do requires cooperation from Congress,” said a lobbyist, whose firm represents an Eastern European country. “You say to people who might be worried: If we have policy concerns about what he’s going to do, then let’s go to Congress.” A senior NATO official, was quoted telling Reuters, “European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief, and now growing panic.”

The prospect of a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz presidency has unraveled a chain of urgent actions by United Nations diplomats, in hopes to sign a set of deals, from migration to Middle East peace, before President Barack Obama steps down in January 2017. Some of Trump’s comments, especially about Mexico, Muslims and trade with countries such as Japan and China, have angered foreign leaders.

Colum Lynch, senior diplomatic reporter for Foreign Policy, recently wrote about the diplomatic race to ink international agreements that has been sparked by the troubling rhetoric coming from the GOP candidates. “European governments, in particular, see the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements or sketching a political road map for a Palestinian state as the major prize,” he writes. “They are also seeking U.S. support at a summit on migration that will be held at U.N. headquarters in September.”

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said one lobbyist with foreign government clients who asked not to be identified. An unidentified lobbyist told The Hill that his firm is "preparing to write off a Trump White House, should he win the presidency, to focus their advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill."

“There’s an added level of bafflement because this is not the United States that they’ve been living with for so long,” said Nathan Daschle, the president and chief operating officer of the Daschle Group, a firm run by his father, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD). “This is not the image the United States has been projecting.”

Regarding what has grown into a national embarrassment, President Obama said he routinely responds to concerns about the statements Trump and Cruz have made in their quest to secure the Republican presidential nomination, adding that it has damaged America's standing overseas.

"I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made," the president told reporters. "I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals. You're also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example."

A senior U.N. diplomat who favors action by the Security Council on an Israel-Palestine resolution was clear about the fact that time for serious diplomatic work may be running out if indeed either Trump or Cruz wins the presidency. “Everything that we can do in 2016 we should do in 2016 because we know what we’re dealing with," warned the diplomat, describing the Obama administration as "the most pro-U.N. administration that any of us can remember.”

"We've got big issues around the world," said Obama. "People expect the president of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed, are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account. They don't expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can't afford that."

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