• Stephen Hoadley is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland.

President Donald Trump's first overseas tour last week was notable not for his gaffs, which were several and varied.

Doubtless with her husband's approval, Melania Trump refused to cover her head for King Salman in Saudi Arabia but did so for the Pope at the Vatican. Trump appeared baffled by the complexities of the Israel-Palestine dispute and quipped that the Middle East was more complex that he'd realised.

In Brussels he hectored Nato leaders to pay their fair share for defence of Europe and shift the defence alliance to controlling terrorism and migration (all of which it already is doing).


His handshake with the new President of France was clumsy and his barging to the front line of the group of Nato leaders for a photo opportunity appeared arrogant. At the G-7 meeting in Sicily he disappointed many leaders by declining to endorse the Paris accords on curbing climate change.

But Trump will count at least seven accomplishments.

He secured an agreement by Saudi Arabia to buy $100 billion worth of arms from the US (which were already in the pipeline).

He put himself onside with Arab and Muslim leaders resisting Iran and fighting Isis (which they are already doing). He attracted a warm welcome by Israel's leaders (who assumed he would support them more than his predecessor President Obama did). His brief meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, allowed him to portray himself as balanced, which he is not.

By reaffirming US support for Nato, albeit with conditions, he secured a courteous but hardly warm reception by Nato leaders. Throughout his tour he commanded deference as the man who leads a state his hosts regard, grudgingly, as indispensable to their security and prosperity. Finally, he made his eccentric views clear face-to-face and obliged other leaders to accept the necessity of yielding to his America-first demands in return for continued US military and economic engagement.

These were accomplishments from Trump's perspective, not necessarily from the perspective of the leaders who offered deference, many with gritted teeth. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has speculated that Europe may have to learn to cope without the United States or Great Britain.

They were accomplishments not so much by Trump the man as Trump the president of a dominant country to which lesser powers prudently need to accommodate their policies. And they were accomplishments relative to low expectations of Trump's flawed leadership, not relative to the potential of the best of US statesmanship.

The threats of Russian encroachment, the Syrian civil war, uncontrolled migration, the Isis scourge, economic stagnation, climate warming, and a welter of ethno-religious and territorial disputes persist after the Trump tour just as they did before. At least Trump did not make them worse, or irrevocably fracture relations with long-standing allies and partners, and maybe he can count that as an accomplishment.

What next? Because Trump enjoyed these easy, albeit insubstantial, triumphs we can predict that he, like so many US Presidents before him, will schedule more overseas trips where he can expect courteous welcomes and respect from foreign leaders. Abroad, he can portray himself as presidential and the leading actor on the world stage. By going overseas he can escape the constant and well deserved criticism by opposition parties, NGOs, and media that he and his administration endure at home.

So, a tour of major Asian capitals might be next. A visit by a US President who supports the US "rebalance to Asia" and enlargement of the military would bolster governments around the periphery of China keen to assert their sovereignty in the face of China's extraordinary rapid rise and sometimes intimidating influence. Trump may even touch down in Australia to thank Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has asserted forthrightly that his country stands "shoulder to shoulder" with America.

Would New Zealand be on Trump's itinerary? His diplomats must be advising him that here the welcome would be courteous but guarded at the official level, given substantial policy differences over reliance on nuclear weapons, military assertiveness, economic protectionism, immigration restrictions and walls, and climate change denial, to name but a few.

He can expected scepticism if not outright criticism from thoughtful sections of the New Zealand media and academia, and noisy public anti-Trump demonstrations. The cost of providing security and hospitality to Trump and his aircraft and entourage for a day would be equivalent to housing a hundred homeless people for a year, for little gain. I don't recommend a visit here.