Barack Obama warns against isolationism in final address to UN General Assembly

‘A quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, the world is is many ways less violent, and yet our society is filled with anxiety and unease,’ Mr Obama said

Andrew Buncombe
United Nations
Tuesday 20 September 2016 18:27 BST
Barack Obama's final address to UN

It was his final speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Barack Obama took the opportunity to call for greater international cooperation, not less, and to ensure the benefits of globalisation were spread more fairly.

In a delivery that was a rejection of the world view of Republican candidate Donald Trump, the US president said there was a danger of countries retreating into nativist isolationism – a sentiment that might be popular with some voters, but that he said ultimately offered no long-term prospects.

“A quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, the world is is many ways less violent,” he said. “And yet our society is filled with anxiety and unease.”

In an address that will have heartened supporters of the UN and angered its critics, the President said the world confronted a choice: it could either push forward towards greater cooperation or else retreat and withdraw.

“I’m going to suggest to you that we must go forward and not backwards,” he said.

The US election campaign has been punctuated by a sharp debate about America’s role in the world, and various free trade deals that have been passed over the last 20 years.

Mr Obama was a strong supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which both Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton now oppose.

Mr Obama did not mention Mr Trump by name, but he cited populist movements, “some on the left, mostly on the right”, that wanted to return to some imagined golden past. He said it was wrong to ignore the pain and anguish of individuals who, because of economic hardship or other reasons, were attached to such populism.

Yet he added: “The answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration. But we must work to make sure the benefits of integration are widely shared.”

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