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US election race to close to call: Hockey

AAP logoAAP 2/11/2016 Belinda Tasker

Australia's top diplomat in Washington believes the US presidential race is too close to call as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump enter the final days of their election campaigns.

Joe Hockey says until a few days ago he thought Mrs Clinton would make history as the first woman to lead the world's most powerful nation.

But now he's not so sure, following the controversy that's erupted after the FBI re-opened its investigation into the Democratic hopeful's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

"It's too close to call," he told an audience of about 300 people at a US Studies Centre event at Sydney University on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't have said that a week ago, but I'm going to say that now."

Mrs Clinton's lead over her Republican rival in the opinion polls has narrowed to about four points following the reopening of the email probe just days out from the November 8 election.

Mr Hockey, who took over as Australia's ambassador to the US in January, said whoever wins the presidential race will have to deal with the rise in "anti-establishment fury" displayed by thousands of Trump supporters and those who backed Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination.

The former federal treasurer noted polls showing 70 per cent of Americans think the US is heading in the wrong direction.

"These Americans are trying to send a message just like those who voted for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union before them," Mr Hockey said.

"Only a fool would choose not to listen. Americans want change."

Mr Hockey and his team of diplomats in Washington have held talks with both the Clinton and Trump teams charged with handling their transition to power.

He has provided advice on issues including asset recycling and believes Australia is in a good position to deal with whoever becomes president, given the goodwill between both countries.

Mr Hockey says given the disenchantment across the electorate, the new president is expected to initially focus on domestic issues and the economy when they take on the "hardest job on God's earth".

Many American families still haven't recovered from the GFC, had lost their jobs or were struggling with flat wages growth.

That had helped spark the "consistent vitriol" during the campaign towards international free trade, Mr Hockey said, with both Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump opposed to the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal that Australia has signed up to.

Mr Hockey said the new president will need to be seen to deliver a better deal for Americans, with many blaming free trade deals for job losses in the US.

"That means a lesser deal potentially for the other partners," he warned.

"Many Americans believe free trade deals have been stacked against Americans and they are expecting a new president to do something about it."

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