UNITED NATIONS – A week before President Trump is due to address the United Nations General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres offered a diplomatic answer Tuesday to a question about Trump’s “America First” slogan, indicating that it is only to be expected of a nation’s leader to put his or her country first.
Guterres, who was prime minister of Portugal from 1995-2002, was asked at a wide-ranging press conference how he intended to handle President Trump’s visit to the General Assembly next week. Trump has frequently expressed skepticism about the U.N., an institution which has frequently shown a dislike of his policies.
Guterres, who has been particularly outspoken about his opposition to Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, was asked about how he would handle the differences between Trump’s “America First” policy and what the reporter called Guterres’ “focusing on people.”
Guterres’ response was diplomatic, and indicated that it is to be expected that a leader put their own country first.
“Well, we can have different opinions about the use of the word ‘first.’ Now, when I was Prime Minister of Portugal, I always considered that, for me, as Prime Minister of Portugal, Portugal would come first,” he said.
He went on to clarify that “it’s my deep belief that the best way to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the UN.”
Trump is unlikely to be given a warm reception at the U.N. next week, with many diplomats and organizations sternly opposed to many of Trump’s policies. But Guterres has largely avoided criticizing Trump by name and has indicated he hopes for U.S. help in his program for the reform of the U.N. that he is proposing.
He is also keen to stop the Trump administration from going through with the proposed budget cut that would gut the U.S. contributions to the U.N. by as much as half and has been diplomatic toward the new administration. In July, Guterres hosted Ivanka Trump for a private lunch at U.N. headquarters, and at the press conference Tuesday he refrained again from criticizing Trump before expressing hope for a “constructive relationship” between the U.N. and the U.S.
“I think that all the efforts I’ve been making until now are in the direction of trying to create conditions for the relationship between the United States and the United Nations to be a constructive relationship,” he said. “And I hope that that will also be the message of President Trump, and I hope that, if that is the message that will be conveyed, that that message will be well received.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY