Obama urges ‘course cor­rec­tion’ on glob­al­iza­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ATHENS: Glob­al­iza­tion has brought many eco­nomic ben­e­fits to the world but needs a “course cor­rec­tion” to ad­dress grow­ing in­equal­ity, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said yes­ter­day on his European farewell tour.

Obama spoke dur­ing a visit orig­i­nally planned as a vale­dic­tory lap, but which has be­come fo­cused on re­as­sur­ing jit­tery al­lies after the shock elec­tion vic­tory by Don­ald Trump, a staunch critic of free trade agree­ments. “The global path of glob­al­iza­tion de­mands a course cor­rec­tion,” Obama said in an ea­gerly-awaited speech in Athens, be­fore con­tin­u­ing his jour­ney to Ber­lin. “When we see peo­ple, global elites, wealthy cor­po­ra­tions seem­ingly liv­ing by a dif­fer­ent set of rules, avoid­ing taxes, ma­nip­u­lat­ing loop­holes... this feeds a pro­found sense of in­jus­tice,” he added.

Dur­ing the trip, the out­go­ing pres­i­dent has re­peat­edly re­ferred to the anger that lately brought suc­cess to pop­ulist move­ments in Europe and the United States, such as the Brexit ref­er­en­dum and Trump’s shock vic­tory last week.

In com­ments Tues­day Obama cau­tioned the world must guard against “a rise in a crude sort of na­tion­al­ism or eth­nic iden­tity or trib­al­ism that is built around an ‘us’ and a ‘them’”. European gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially east­ern coun­tries close to Rus­sia’s or­bit, have been shaken after Trump ap­peared to call into ques­tion Wash­ing­ton’s near 70-year se­cu­rity guar­an­tee by say­ing he would only help NATO al­lies if they paid their way. Trump wel­comed Bri­tain’s shock vote in June to leave the European Union (EU) and has been a critic of global free trade agree­ments.

How­ever, Obama was at pains to stress that Europe-and NATO-would re­main the cor­ner­stone of US for­eign pol­icy. The USLED NATO group­ing is “ab­so­lutely vi­tal” to US in­ter­ests and a strong, uni­fied Europe was good for Amer­ica and the world, Obama said in com­ments aimed at re­as­sur­ing old part­ners. “We know what hap­pens when Euro­peans start di­vid­ing them­selves up... the 20th cen­tury was a blood­bath,” he said point­edly on Tues­day.

Fol­low­ing his speech, the pres­i­dent will head to Ger­many to visit Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, whom he has de­scribed as “prob­a­bly... my clos­est in­ter­na­tional part­ner these last eight years.” Dur­ing his time in Ber­lin, he will also hud­dle with the lead­ers of Bri­tain, France and Italy, as Europe des­per­ately seeks clues to fu­ture US pol­icy in a Trump world. While Obama has gen­er­ally been wel­comed in Greece, there were some who came out onto the streets in protest.

ATHENS: Peo­ple stand next to a ban­ner read­ing ‘Na­tions don’t need pro­tec­tors-they smash gov­ern­ments, EU-IMF. Obama un­wanted’ hung at the Athens poly­tech­nic school yes­ter­day on the eve of the 43rd an­niver­sary of the stu­dent’s up­ris­ing against the US-backed mil­i­tary junta.

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