Some Europeans doubtful about Obama

A man looks at traditional Russian wooden 'Matryoshka' dolls with pictures of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama in central Sofia.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: As if we needed any more confirmation, tomorrow's inauguration will prove once and for all there is a new rock star of global politics. The new chief executive takes power amid an international outpouring of good will. Many countries are pinning their hopes for global economic recovery on Mr. Obama. But beneath the adulation there is an undercurrent of anxiety. Our European correspondent Stephen Beard has been talking to some of the "Obama doubters" across the Atlantic.


Stephen Beard: The love affair started last summer. As a presidential candidate Barack Obama addressed a huge crowd in Berlin. He pledged to finally heal the rift between the U.S. and Europe.

Barack Obama: Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice. It is the only way to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

Since the election, Europe has been awash in Obama-mania. Politicians across the continent are falling over themselves to cozy up to the new leader. Even the Irish are claiming he's one of their own.

But not everyone has succumbed to Obama worship.

Phillip Booth: I'm not really quite sure why people are so excited about Obama. Other than, perhaps, that he isn't Bush.

Phillip Booth, of the British free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs:

Booth: I think probably why many European leaders are welcoming Obama's election is because quite simply that they expect him to be something of a socialist in terms of economic policy.

Booth says that many European leaders see Obama as a kindred spirit -- that under the cover of the economic crisis, the new president will try to bring European style big government to the U.S.

Booth: For example, a huge fiscal expansion, increased government borrowing and increased government spending, intervention in industry.

But that doesn't mean Europe will benefit from its new economic soul mate. Analyst Andrew Hilton is another Obama skeptic. He says the incoming president is too close to the unions -- more concerned about protecting American jobs, than promoting free trade.

Andrew Hilton: The AFLCIO backs him and backs him very hard and some of his cabinet picks are a worry in terms of his commitment to a global economy, to free trade.

During the campaign, candidate Obama flirted with the idea of tariffs to protect certain American industries from foreign competition. That would be a disaster, says Professor Geoffrey Wood of the Cass Business School.

Geoffrey Wood: Tariff protection, after all, in the Great Depression made the situation very much worse not just for the U.S. but for the rest of the world.

On the eve of an historic inauguration, expressing doubts about Obama may seem peevish. And unwarranted. Europe's love affair continues. But, say the doubters, it may not last for long.

In London this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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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