Barack Obama bolsters transatlantic relationship in Westminster speech

US president tells parliament that Europe and the US will not be eclipsed by booming eastern economies

Barack Obama declared on Wednesday that the Anglo-American special relationship would provide “indispensable” leadership to the world and said it was wrong to think that the rise of China and India had undermined the transatlantic alliance.

In a speech designed to reassure Britain and other European countries, which fear that Obama’s Hawaiian upbringing means he instinctively looks to the Pacific, the president rejected as “false” the idea that Europe and the US were in terminal decline.

Obama opened his speech with a joke after the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, said he was the first US president to address both houses of parliament in Westminster Hall.

“I have known few greater honours than the opportunity to address the mother of parliaments at Westminster Hall,” the president said. “I am told that the last three speakers here have been the pope, Her Majesty the Queen and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke.”

Parliamentarians, who laughed at the joke, then listened to the president largely in silence until he spoke of the honour of how the grandson of a Kenyan cook could address parliament as US president.

“It is possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great parliament and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British army to stand before you as president of the United States,” he said. read more

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