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British criticize Obama's BP rhetoric

A British Petroleum sign is seen at a gas station in Manassas, Va.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: We'll get to more of BP and the U.K. in just a second, but there's one other thing the president said today that caught our ears.

President Barack Obama: BP is a strong and viable company and it is in all of our interests that it remain so.

So one would believe the official U.S. position, then, is that it's best BP not go bankrupt. The president's tough talk about BP the past couple of weeks is playing quite a bit differently in the U.K. "Anti-British" is the phrase that's being used.

From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: First, there was the president's pointed and repeated references to "British Petroleum."

Jason Kenney: BP has not been called British Petroleum since 1998.

Jason Kenney of the Dutch bank ING says the president might not have given the company quite such a pummeling if it had been homegrown.

Kenney: To be honest, I think if this was an American company that had, unfortunately, been exposed to this catastrophe, you know, things might have gone slightly differently.

Analysts here say that Obama's tongue-lashing worsened the fall in BP shares. And that's hit many British pension funds with substantial holdings in the company.

Fraser Nelson edits the conservative magazine The Spectator. He says Anglo-American relations have been damaged.

Fraser Nelson: It has left the impression that Barack Obama doesn't value Britain as an ally that much, and was quite prepared to use anti-British rhetoric where it played well to a certain segment of his home audience.

But another leading British commentator takes a different view. Imagine, he says, that Exxon-Mobil had spent weeks dumping 30,000 barrels of oil a day along the British coast. Might there not be there not be just a little anti-American feeling here?

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: BP shareholders on this side of the pond -- Americans hold about 39 percent of the company -- got a teeny bit of their money back today.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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