Newspaper article International New York Times

Meeting in Canada Focuses on Climate ; North American Leaders Also Address Isolationist Tide in U.S. and Europe

Newspaper article International New York Times

Meeting in Canada Focuses on Climate ; North American Leaders Also Address Isolationist Tide in U.S. and Europe

Article excerpt

The meeting of North American leaders in Ottawa was focused on climate change and "Brexit" ripples.

For President Obama, foreign trips these days have increasingly become an exercise in explaining the inflamed politics of his country to nervous foreigners.

So it was here on Wednesday, when Mr. Obama joined the leaders of Canada and Mexico at a summit meeting that began as a show of North American solidarity and ended up as an attempt to repudiate the nativist and isolationist currents that are agitating politics in the United States, as well as in Europe.

With the gothic spires of Canada's Parliament as a backdrop, Mr. Obama, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico announced a landmark agreement on climate change and extolled the benefits of a Pacific Rim trade agreement. But it was the charged words in the American election and Britain's departure from the European Union that seized most of the attention.

Mr. Obama deplored the anti-immigrant remarks of Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, particularly his statements about Mexican immigrants. Though he never mentioned Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Obama said the next American president would have a strong interest in having a solid relationship with "our good neighbor to the south."

Speaking at a news conference with the Canadian and Mexican leaders after their meeting, the president said that anti-immigrant appeals had a long history in the United States, but that they had never permanently curtailed the flow of people into the country.

"We should take some of this rhetoric seriously and answer it boldly and clearly," Mr. Obama said, answering a question from a Mexican journalist, "but you shouldn't think it is representative of how the American people think."

Mr. Obama said he rejected the argument that the harsh tone in the American presidential campaign, or in Britain's recent referendum on leaving the European Union, was populist. He ridiculed the notion that a candidate who worked to preserve the interests of wealthy people could be a populist.

"They don't suddenly become populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes," Mr. Obama said. "That's not the measure of populism; that's nativism or xenophobia or worse. Or it's just cynicism."

Mr. Pena Nieto, for his part, put Mr. Trump in a line of populist demagogues, including Hitler and Mussolini, though he, like Mr. Obama, did not use the candidate's name. "Those political actors, by using populism and demagoguery, they choose the easiest way to solve the challenges of today's world," he said.

Their comments lent urgency to the North American leaders' summit meeting, a diplomatic ritual that usually goes unnoticed by the public. This meeting, in fact, slipped from being an annual gathering during the administration of George W. …

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