Barack Obama Says Donald Trump is ‘Rattling’ World Leaders

Barack Obama has said foreign leaders are “rattled” by Donald Trump and that he understands their unease given the Republican presidential nominee’s ignorance of global affairs.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan, Obama said his fellow leaders were “surprised by the Republican nominee” and unsure how to respond to his brash style of politics.

“They are rattled by [him] and for good reason,” Obama said on Thursday. “Because a lot of the proposals he has made display either ignorance of world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines, instead of actually thinking through what it is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous, and what’s required to keep the world on an even keel.”

Obama, who is attending his last G7 summit as US president, contrasted the ideological polarisation that has taken place among Republicans during Trump’s run for the White House with the inevitable bouts of “grumpiness” that have crept into the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Likening the Democratic primary to his nomination contest against Clinton in 2008, he said: “During primaries, people get a little grumpy with each other. Somebody’s supporter pops off and there’s a certain buildup of aggravation. Every little speed bump, conflict trash-talking, that takes place is elevated.”

Obama’s appraisal of Trump’s foreign policy acumen is shared by many people living in countries friendly towards the US. In a new YouGov poll 62% of people polled in Britain said the views made them “concerned”, 75% said they “dislike or hate” his politics and 38% said his views made them feel “sick to the stomach”.

Obama’s broadside against Trump came at the end of a day in which he and his fellow G7 leaders took a stroll on hallowed ground, before listening to warnings by their host, the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, that they risked sleepwalking into a global economic crisis comparable to the Lehmann shock of eight years ago.

After escorting his fellow leaders to Ise-Jingu – Japan’s most revered Shinto shrine – Abe brandished charts showing global commodities prices fell 55% from June 2014 to January 2016, the same margin as from July 2008 to February 2009, after the Lehman collapse.

G7 leaders at a tree-planting ceremony at the Ise-Jingu shrine.
G7 leaders at a tree-planting ceremony at the Ise-Jingu shrine. 

“We learned a lesson that we failed to respond properly because we did not have a firm recognition of the risks,” Abe told reporters. “This time, we had a thorough discussion and recognised the major risks facing the global economy.”

While leading economies disagree on how to address the contagion caused by a slowdown in the Chinese economy, they reached consensus on the need for “flexible spending”, according to officials.

“G7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis,” Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, Hiroshige Sekō, told reporters.

Obama said the leaders had agreed on “the need to continue to accelerate growth”.

He told reporters they would “use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that we are not only putting people back to work but also helping to lift wages and helping to make sure we can maintain the momentum of the recovery that’s taking place in the United States most prominently, but also we are starting to see some progress in Europe.”

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While Abe is perservering with a combination of monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, other G7 governments, notably Germany and Britain, have questioned the wisdom of spending their way to economic health.

Obama and Shinzo Abe at the shrine.
Obama and Shinzo Abe at the shrine. 

Abe also has compelling domestic reasons for securing agreement on the need to spend in the G7 leaders’ communique to be released on Friday.

Creating a sense of urgency over the global economy would, some analysts believe, make it easier for him to postpone an unpopular but necessary rise in the sales tax due to come into effect next April.

“There is a concern that the sluggish economy might last some time, and that Abe hopes to share a common notion about the potential risks,” Sekō said.

The decision, at Abe’s urging, to place China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea near the top of the agenda provoked an angry response in Beijing, which warned the G7 not to escalate regional tensions.

The communique is unlikely to mention China by name but will reaffirm the G7’s belief in freedom of navigation, the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes and respect for international law – a reference to Beijing’s construction of military bases on islands in disputed waters.

Discussions on the South China Sea will resume on Friday amid reports that the Chinese military is preparing to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Chinese officials said the country had been left with no option but to start missile patrols in response to new US weapons systems which have weakened Beijing’s existing deterrent force.

Jean-Claude Juncker and Boris Johnson
Jean-Claude Juncker tells G7 that Boris Johnson as PM is a ‘horror scenario’. Composite: AP/Getty

Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said: “The G7 should focus on its own duties, that is economic cooperation. It should not point fingers at something outside its portfolio.”

The Xinhua news agency said in a blunt commentary that the group “should mind its own business”, and accused Japan of exploiting its host status to try to isolate China.

While the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, fomented a new Brexit row with Boris Johnson, the European council president, Donald Tusk, urged the G7 not to abandon Europe to address the refugee crisis alone.

“We are aware that it is because of geography that the most responsibility is, and will continue to be, placed on Europe,” Tusk said. “However, we would also like the global community to show solidarity and recognise that this is a global crisis.

“And honestly speaking, if [the G7] don’t take the lead in managing this crisis, nobody else will.”

Last year, 1.3 million refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq, asked for asylum in the EU – more than a third of them in Germany. Just before the summit, Japan attempted to ward off potential criticism of its strict rules on accepting refugees by announcing it would accept 150 Syrian exchange students over the next five years.

Source: the guardian

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