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“Standing together against protectionism and for free trade”

An interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the outcome of the US elections Published in “Die Welt” on 8 November 2012

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Foreign Minister, the United States have chosen Obama again. Was that a good choice?

The elections kept millions of people on the edge of their seats, not just in the United States, but all over the world. That was democracy in action for the world to see. The American people made their choice. Barack Obama wants to unite all Americans. I applaud that.

During the US election campaign, you said that your liberal soul was pleased when Obama was elected in 2008. What is the state of your liberal soul today?

I congratulate President Obama most warmly on his re election. We are delighted to continue working with him and his administration. Together we face big challenges: consolidating budgets, creating growth, overcoming the foreign policy crises in Syria and Mali, resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

What will change for Europe and Germany as a result of the election?

It was always clear the German Government would work well with the future President, no matter who was chosen by the American people.But it is also true that our connection to Washington over the past four years has been very good and we have worked together with Barack Obama’s administration towards many common goals, such as disarmament or with respect to ending the violence in Syria.

The coordination between me and my American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, was excellent. We should build on this and also move forward on new issues, for example by standing together against protectionism and for free trade, because that will create growth.

What should be the goals for German-American relations?

In this world of dramatic change with new centres of power, we should expand the transatlantic partnership between Germany and the United States and between Europe and America across the board.

In terms of values, we are each others’ most important partners. Our economies are tightly interconnected. I hope there will be a new joint boost for free trade. We also need new initiatives on foreign policy issues, to overcome the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, for example, or to support the transformation taking place in the Arab world.

Disarmament is an important issue for you. Is it important to Obama as well?

It was Barack Obama who put nuclear disarmament and the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons on the international agenda in his 2009 speech in Prague. There has been progress since then, in NATO and in the disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia to reduce strategic nuclear weapons. But there is still much to be done, and everyone familiar with the facts knows that disarmament is a tough nut.

I hope that we can make progress together on disarmament and nuclear non proliferation, for example in the area of the so called tactical nuclear weapons. That is in our common interest in terms of security.

Questions: Karsten Kammholz. Reproduced by kind permission of Die Welt.