President Barack Obama and the leaders of Mexico and Canada have pushed back against the isolationist and anti-immigrant sentiments that have been championed by presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The leaders warned against easy solutions peddled by “demagogues” who feed on economic anxiety.
With tensions growing over terrorism and fallout from Britain’s exit from the EU, Obama acknowledged that Americans and others have reason to be concerned about their own future in a rapidly globalising economy. He said concerns about immigrants had been exploited by politicians in the past, but he insisted he wasn’t worried Americans will follow that path.
“We should take some of this seriously and answer it boldly and clearly,” Obama said, without naming the Republican presidential candidate. “But you shouldn’t think that is representative of how the American people think.”
Gathering in the Canadian capital, the leaders defended their calls for freer trade within the continent and beyond. They argued that instead of withdrawing from the world, advanced countries should focus on higher standards, wages and legal protections that would ensure the benefits of globalization are widely felt.
“The integration of national economies into a global economy, that’s here. That’s done,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto came as the leaders sought to show unity amid growing nationalist movements in Europe and elsewhere, epitomised by Britain’s move to leave the 28-member EU.
Though Britain’s decision has rattled the global financial system, Obama said he believed the markets were starting to settle down. Still, he acknowledged there would be “genuine longer-term concerns” about global economic growth “if, in fact, Brexit goes through.” “This doesn’t help,” he said.
The Canadian and Mexican leaders largely echoed Obama’s calls for staying focused on closer economic ties. Pena Nieto said Mexico sees opportunity for growth and investment by broadening its relationship with the rest of the continent.