Why world leaders smacked down Obama at G20 summit
G20 leaders made it clear at this week's summit that they were not afraid to stand up to President Obama and US global economic policy. Were they motivated by midterm election results?
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Fresh from his self-described shellacking in this month’s midterm elections, President Obama has gotten pretty much the same treatment from foreign leaders as he has made his way through Asia this week.
Leaders at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Seoul, South Korea – China and Germany topping the list – made it clear that they feel freer than ever to stand up to the United States on global economic issues. And South Korea refused to bow to Obama administration demands for reworking a US-Korea free-trade agreement dating from the Bush administration, putting off conclusion of the trade pact until at least next year.
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Mr. Obama’s drubbing at the polls Nov. 2 is no doubt one factor in these countries’ willingness to stand up to a US president who remains popular in many of their countries.
“It would be naïve to say [the election results] don’t have an impact, because it does hurt him,” says I.M. Destler, who specializes in international security and economic policy at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. “I’m just not certain that if the election had been much more positive for Obama, he would have done much better” in winning global support for his economic views.
Another, bigger explanation for the global defiance can be found in the state of the US economy relative to that of some of the US’s largest trading partners, global economic analysts say. China this year rocketed to the No. 2 slot of world economies (behind the US), while Germany’s unemployment rate is already several notches below the US’s 9.6 percent as German exports have boomed – despite slow overall German economic growth.
But perhaps nothing played a bigger role in lining up international opposition to Obama than the Federal Reserve’s action last week – pumping $600 billion in new money into the economy. The world saw that move as devaluing the dollar to make American products cheaper, rather than as an effort to stimulate US economic growth.