EU praises Obama opposition to protectionism

February 5th, 2009 - 4:26 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaBrussels/Washington, Feb 5 (DPA) The European Union (EU) Wednesday applauded US President Barack Obama for warning against protectionist measures in the midst of a global economic crisis.Obama, in interviews with US television networks Tuesday night, said he was worried about the US Congress sending signals that could trigger a trade war between the US, the EU and other countries.

Obama signalled his opposition to an extension of “Buy American” provisions in a more-than $800-billion economic recovery package being considered by US lawmakers, which would bar foreign goods from being used in government spending projects.

“I think that would be a mistake right now. That is a potential source of trade wars that we can’t afford at a time when trade is sinking all across the globe,” Obama told ABC News.

EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said she was “encouraged” by Obama’s comments.

“He realises, like we do in Europe, that we need to trade our way out of the economic difficulties. Trade is part of the solution, as it acts as a stimulus,” Ashton said.

But it was unclear whether Congress would heed Obama’s call. Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats in the legislature support the “Buy American” provisions, arguing that restrictions on the use of foreign goods is necessary to ensure the stimulus package creates jobs in the US.

The House of Representatives last week passed an $819-billion stimulus package that barred foreign-made steel and iron from being used in construction projects that get money from the package. The Senate is currently debating its own version of the stimulus, which extends the ban to “all manufactured goods.”

“There’s a real concern here that this money go to stimulate employment in the US,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed told reporters last week.

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