Stepping on toes

February 3, 2009

The global infatuation with President Obama, universally loved by world leaders, was bound to wear off once the two got to know each other a bit better.  Those growing pains of getting involved in a long-term relationship have started to show up.   You can imagine the exchanges… “Darling, I love what you are doing on climate change and gender equality, but really, protectionist trade policy?”   The realisation that, alas, Obama represents American interests, and that those interests do not always dove-tail with those of foreign countries has hit today.

Look at the symmetry of headlines in two of today’s news items: “Brussles warns US on ‘Buy American’ Rule” and “India warns Obama over Kashmir.”  Oh Obama, how short the honeymoon has been.  The Europeans, who have never been particularly keen on the protectionist slant of the Administration’s promised trade policy, warn that clauses in the new economic recovery package requiring that manufacturers source American is, well, Anti-American.  The US has signed a number of agreements promising not to do just that, not to mention running afoul of WTO rules.  The Indians warn Obama on foreign messiah syndrome: the tendency of American presidents to think that they can single-handily solve entrenched global problems like Palestine or Kashmir.

And it wouldn’t truly be a testy day in the international news if Kim Jong-il wasn’t up to something.   In case the day wasn’t busy enough with major democratic allies sending warning signs, the North Koreans have a new super-missle to test.  Kind of makes you want to go back to the heady days of the transition, no?

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