Donald Trump names foreign policy novice Nikki Haley as US envoy to UN

Nikki Haley speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Nikki Haley speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. PHOTO: REUTERS

WEST PALM BEACH/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Mr Donald Trump on Wednesday (Nov 23) named South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a former critic with little foreign policy experience, to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations at a time of uncertainty over America's international role under his presidency.

Ms Haley, one of two women chosen so far for a job in his Cabinet, is "a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage," the Republican president-elect said in a statement.

The 44-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants, Ms Haley represents what some Republicans hope could be the new face of their party: a younger, more diverse generation of leaders.

Ms Haley took Mr Trump strongly to task during the presidential campaign over his harsh rhetoric about illegal immigration and for not speaking forcefully enough against white supremacists.

Mr Trump has chosen mostly male conservatives so far for senior positions as he shapes his administration following his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov 8 election. He takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan 20.

 
 

AMERICA'S GLOBAL ROLE

The choice of Ms Haley may be aimed at countering criticism of Mr Trump's divisive comments about immigrants and minorities, as well as accusations of sexism during his election campaign.

She led a successful effort last year to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The flag was carried by pro-slavery Confederate forces during the Civil War and is viewed by many as a racist emblem.

Ms Haley said she had accepted Mr Trump's offer and would remain governor pending her confirmation to the Cabinet-level post by the US Senate.

"When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation's standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed," she said in a statement.

Her job may include reassuring allies worried about some of Mr Trump's campaign promises, including building a wall along the US-Mexican border to curb illegal immigration and reviewing trade agreements, and his suggestion that he would push Nato partners to pay more for their own defence.

He has antagonised China, another major power at the United Nations, with his talk on trade and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The New York real estate magnate, who has never held public office, gave few clues about his world view during an extensive interview with The New York Times on Tuesday.

Asked what he sees as America's role in the world, Mr Trump replied: "That's such a big question."

When pressed further, he described the Iraq war as a mistake, urged better relations with Russia and called for an end to "that craziness that's going on in Syria."

The United States, which along with Russia is one of the five permanent veto powers on the 15-member UN Security Council, is also the largest funder of the United Nations, paying more than a quarter of its US$8 billion (S$11.5 billion) peace-keeping budget and 22 per cent of the regular budget.

Mr Trump picked conservatives to lead his national security and law enforcement teams last week, suggesting he plans to make good on his campaign promises to take a hard line on Islamist militancy and curbing illegal immigration But a relative moderate, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is among the candidates under consideration to head the State Department.

SHARP WORDS FOR TRUMP

Ms Haley would succeed Mr Obama's UN envoy, Samantha Power, a foreign policy expert before she took the job. In contrast, Ms Haley, a state lawmaker before becoming governor, has little experience in international relations.

She was a robust critic of Mr Trump during the early stages of the Republican presidential nominating race, including condemning him for not disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan and one of the white supremacist group's former leaders, David Duke.

In a rebuttal to Mr Obama's State of the Union address in January, Ms Haley called for tolerance on immigration and civility in politics, in what some saw as a rebuke of Mr Trump. "During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices," she said. "We must resist that temptation."

She supported Trump rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both US senators, in the Republican race before saying last month that she would vote for Mr Trump despite reservations about his character.

She also criticised Mr Trump last winter for not releasing his tax returns, prompting him to hit back on Twitter, "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed of Nikki Haley!"