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United States: Presidential Election

Volume 740: debated on Wednesday 7 November 2012


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the United States presidential election, what plans the Prime Minister has to meet the successful candidate; and which areas of policy they regard as the priorities for United Kingdom-United States relations in the next four years.

I congratulate the noble Lord on the timeliness of his Question and hope that he got some sleep last night. The Prime Minister has congratulated Barack Obama on his successful re-election as President of the United States. We will continue to work closely with President Obama on the full spectrum of international issues that are essential to our mutual prosperity and security, including the global economy, the situation in the Middle East and progress in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said of Barack Obama:

“I have really enjoyed working with him over the last few years and I look forward to working with him again over the next four years … we need to kick start the world economy and I want to see an EU-US trade deal”.

The Prime Minister also emphasised the need to do more to solve the crisis in Syria.

My Lords, I am sure that the House will want to congratulate warmly President Obama on an outstanding victory.

What approach will the Prime Minister suggest to reinvigorate the peace process in the Middle East, given the authority that President Obama certainly will enjoy as a second-term victor? Will the Prime Minister support the President’s commitment to a growth stimulus programme to mitigate uncertainty and a flat-line lack of growth—a strategy we sorely miss in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, we are all conscious that the Middle East peace process will be a very delicate and urgent issue over the next few months. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority has suggested that it may take back the question of its status at the United Nations to that body next week. We will be in urgent discussions with our American and European partners on our approach to that extremely difficult conflict. The strategy for global growth is of course a matter that we are discussing within the G8, the G20 and the OECD.

My Lords, will my noble friend give the House the Government’s assessment of the nature of the relationship? Is it now increasingly bilateral, given our diminishing role in the European Union, or would the Americans prefer the United Kingdom to be a stronger player both bilaterally and multilaterally through the EU?

My Lords, Washington sees the United Kingdom as a valued friend in Europe—within the EU and other European institutions. The issue of the UK’s place in Europe is an important matter for the USA.

My Lords, the conventional wisdom is that in a second term the President need not be constrained by the same sort of considerations as apply in a first term. In what areas does the Minister feel that the President is now less constrained, in spite of Congress and in spite of the facts in the Middle East being the same? For example, does he see that the President’s commitment to the crisis posed by climate change, as opposed to that which Governor Romney would have had, is a real window of opportunity for us?

My Lords, I think that most people here would welcome the extent to which President Obama has flagged up climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Indeed, he mentioned in his acceptance speech the importance of combating climate change. We look forward very much to a more positive American policy towards global co-operation in combating climate change.

My Lords, can the Minister reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Government will work with the second Obama Administration to ensure that when the Afghan national security forces take on sole responsibility for security lead in their own country, they will be given all necessary support by NATO and will not be left wholly in the lurch, as seems to be the proposition at the moment?

My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord is well aware that the British are already in active discussions about providing training for officers in the Afghan national security forces and we are working with all other NATO forces within ISAF to ensure that there is a smooth handover.