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Obama News Conference at Conclusion of G-20 Summit

Q First of all, you’ve had a very fruitful meeting with our President. And during the Clinton administration, U.S.-China relationship were characterized, in Clinton’s words, “strategic, constructive partnership.” During the Bush era, it was — the catchphrase was “stakeholder.” The Bush administration expects China to become a responsible stakeholder in international affairs. Have you come up with a catchphrase of your own? And certainly it is not the G2, is it?

My second question is, on behalf of the world, politics is very local, even though we’ve been talking about global solution, as indicated by your recent preference over American journalists and British — which is okay. (Laughter.) How can you make sure that you will do whatever you can so that — that local politics will not trump or negatively affect good international economics? Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, those are excellent questions. On the first question, your American counterparts will tell you I’m terrible with those little catchphrases and sound bites. So I haven’t come up with anything catchy yet, but if you have any suggestions, let me know. (Laughter.) I’ll be happy to use them.

In terms of local politics, look, I’m the President of the United States. I’m not the President of China, I’m not the President of Japan, I’m not the President of the other participants here. And so I have a direct responsibility to my constituents to make their lives better. That’s why they put me in there. That accounts for some of the questions here, about how concretely does me being here help them find a job, pay for their home, send their kids to college, live what we call the American Dream. And I will be judged by my effectiveness in meeting their needs and concerns.

But in an era of integration and interdependence, it is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate is tied up with the larger world; that if we neglect or abandon those who are suffering in poverty, that not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us; that unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who’s going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda.

So if I’m effective as America’s President right now, part of that effectiveness involves holding a — providing Americans insight into how their self-interest is tied up with yours. And that’s an ongoing project because it’s not always obvious.

And there are going to be times where short-term interests are going to differ; there’s no doubt about it. And protectionism is the classic example. You can make arguments that if you can get away with protecting your markets, as long as the other folks don’t protect theirs, then in the short term you may benefit. And it then becomes important not only for me to try to give people a sense of why, over the long term, that’s counterproductive, but also it becomes important for me to put policies in place in the United States that provide a cushion, provide support for those people who may suffer local dislocations because of globalization. And that’s something that I think every government has to think about.

There are individuals who will be harmed by a trade deal. There are businesses who will go out of business because of free trade. And to the extent that a government is not there to help them reshape their company or retrain for the new jobs that are being created, over time you’re going to get people who see — who rightly see their personal self-interest in very narrow terms. Okay?

Two more questions. Jonathan Weisman.


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