Sunday, 18 January 2009

Let's not be seduced by Obama

It has been obvious to most outsiders for some time that Barack Obama was the best thing for the United States - certainly for the nation's image abroad, and most probably for its well-being at home. It was a relief for liberal democrats (with or without capitals) the world over that the great US public came to the same conclusion last November.

However, the best thing for America is not necessarily the best thing for Europe. Democrat administrations in Washington in the past have tended to be more protectionist than Republican ones. There has been no indication yet as to where Obama stands on agricultural trade, a silence which is worrying. Under Bush, there are already unresolved trade disputes with Europe resulting in import bans and punitive import duties (for a typical example, involving Roquefort cheese and the free use of antibiotics by US livestock farmers, see here).

Then there is US foreign policy. Though Obama himself bravely and commendably committed himself, during his election campaign, to opening discussions with Iran, his appointed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has been more hawkish until now. Obama's chief of staff is the son of a militant Israeli expansionist. Obama's c.v. suggests that he is a man of firm conviction, who does not lightly go back on his word, but the pressures are there.

The UK government should not roll over for the USA just because its new head of state is more sympathique. In particular, the opportunity should be taken to rectify the one-sided extradition treaty with the US and other examples of US extra-territorial legal claims.

1 comment:

Frank H Little said...

I see Glyn Davies has published a defence of GW Bush. It is hard to reconcile this with the general perception of GW as an amiable schlemihl who was used by powerful interests to further their cause.