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US President-elect Donald Trump is a man Britain and the European Union can do business with, British foreign minister Boris Johnson says, amid sharp EU divisions over the tycoon’s upset election win.
AFP

WASHINGTON — President Obama began his presidency with a series of foreign trips that critics derided as an “apology tour.” Now, just a week after voters repudiated that presidency by turning the White House over to a bitter rival, Obama departs for what might be described as a humility tour.

His visits to Greece, Germany and Peru this week will deal with a wide range of American issues abroad — all of them cast in a new light by one big development back home: the election of Donald Trump.

“Of course, the Europeans are all mouths agape. How did this happen? What does it mean?” said Kurt Volker, the former U.S. permanent representative to NATO in the Bush and Obama administrations who spent election night in Berlin.

The forces that helped elect Trump — anxiety about trade, terrorism and migration — are some of the same forces roiling Europe. “I think it will be a topic on Obama’s trip: All of our countries are going though this surge of anti-establishment populism,” Volker said.

When Obama was the president elect, he often reminded people that the United States only has “one president at a time.” And while White House aides say he’ll be “running through the tape” until Jan. 20, they also acknowledged that Trump’s election looms over the agenda.

“Look, we certainly expect that the election will be the primary topic on people’s minds everywhere we go,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

Before Trump’s election, Obama described world leaders as “surprised” and “rattled” by the popularity of Trump’s isolationist impulses. Now, he will try to reassure anxious allies that American interests won’t change, even if its leadership will. “There are certain things that have endured for decades under administrations of different parties,” Rhodes said.

One of the most important, he said, is the NATO alliance itself. But Trump has said he would reconsider the alliance if other member countries don’t pay their share of common defense expenditures, 2% of gross domestic product. Only five countries — the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland — meet that benchmark.

Obama will also acknowledge that many western democracies are seeing Trump-like movements.

“On both sides of the Atlantic, we face the task of ensuring that our political institutions and economic policies are responsive to our people, many of whom feel that they have been hurt by globalization and trade,” Obama said in an interview published Sunday in the Athens newspaper I Kathimerini. “My message – especially with my visit coming so soon after a hard-fought election campaign in the United States – will be that as our nations confront these challenges together, Americans continue to place enormous importance on our alliance with Greece.”

Obama’s week-long foreign trip — the last one scheduled before he leaves office Jan. 20 — will stop in three cities:

• Athens. President Obama will express support for Greece’s economic reforms in the wake of the euro debt crisis as he meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris Tuesday. He’ll also visit the Parthenon Wednesday.

But the highlight of the visit is a speech on globalization — a speech that was planned before the election result, but will take on new resonance after Trump’s victory. “That will include, frankly, acknowledgement of our election results, the Brexit election results,” said Rhodes, Obama’s chief foreign policy speechwriter. “There are, of course, benefits that have come from globalization and automation, but at the same time, there are challenges as people feel like decisions are made beyond their control.”

President Bill Clinton was the last president to visit Greece.

• Berlin. Obama’s trip to Hannover in April was supposed to be his last visit to Germany. So the addition of one more final trip — his sixth overall, more than any country except France — underscores the growing importance of Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama will meet with Merkel Thursday and hold a joint press conference followed by a private dinner.

The leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain will also travel to Berlin for meetings Friday on the Islamic State, Europe’s migration issues, Syria and Ukraine.

• Lima, Peru. The European legs were relatively late additions to the president’s schedule, and were planned around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. President George W. Bush last visited Peru as part of the same summit in 2008.

Obama will meet not only with the 21 APEC countries on Sunday, but also a smaller group of 12 nations who signed on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Saturday.

White House aides said they understand that Trump’s election has changed the equation on U.S. ratification of the deal.  “But we continue to think that these types of deals make sense, simply because countries like China are not going to stop working on regional agreements,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Wally Adeyemo.

Obama will also hold a town hall for young leaders, and meet separately with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australian President Malcolm Turnbull.