North American leaders challenge isolationism as Brexit and Trump loom

Speaking in Ottawa with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, Barack Obama said that pulling up the drawbridge would only be a bad thing

North American leaders fought back against isolationism on Wednesday, promising deeper ties, as Britains Brexit vote and Donald Trumps protectionist stance loomed large.

The integration of national economies … Thats here, thats done, Barack Obama told reporters after talks with Canadian and Mexican leaders in Ottawa. And us trying to abandon the field and pull up the drawbridge around us is going to be bad for us.

He noted the legitimate concerns many have about globalization. Because the fact is that as the global economy is integrated, what weve seen are trend lines across the advanced economies of growing inequality and stagnant wages.

The isolationism currently being touted on the left and right, he warned, is not the answer. Thats the wrong medicine, he said, one that would lead to disruption and inefficiencies that could result in job losses and a spike in the price of goods. He instead urged countries to take an active approach towards free trade and help shape an international order that prioritizes workers.

His embrace of free trade was wholeheartedly echoed by Justin Trudeau, Canadas prime minister, and Enrique Pea Nieto, the president of Mexico. We know that industries that export more goods pay salaries that are 50% higher than sectors that dont export, said Trudeau.

Obama cautioned those who would see Britains vote to leave the European Union as a rejection of trade, pointing to efforts by those in the Leave campaign to ensure that the UK could continue to have access to the single market.

So apparently their argument was not against trade generally, they just didnt want any obligations to go with the access to the free market. He said he expected the global economy to hold steady in the short term, but flagged long term concerns if Brexit goes through and investment in the UK or Europe stagnates.

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