Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

BBC correspondents: What the world expects

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Barack Obama has been elected the 44th president of the United States. BBC correspondents report on the mixed expectations from around the world.


They may be a long way from the celebrations and razzmatazz in Washington, but Korean farmers will be cheering America's choice for its new president just as loudly.

Last year the US and South Korea signed a free trade deal, the second biggest in US history.

If it is ratified by both parliaments, farmers here believe their livelihoods will be swamped by cheaper food from across the Pacific.

Barack Obama turns out to be an unlikely ally.

He's of the opinion that the agreement is bad news for American car workers, and he wants it renegotiated.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak, a strong supporter of the free trade agreement, may have another reason for viewing the Obama presidency with caution.

Compared to his liberal predecessors, the conservative Mr Lee has taken a tougher line with North Korea.

His insistence on raising the issue of human rights, and linking further aid and trade to progress on nuclear disarmament, has infuriated Pyongyang.

Mr Obama will continue with the multilateral "six-party talks" on North Korea.

But he has also promised to be a president "willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe."

The possibility of closer US engagement with North Korea, at the same time as the South gives it the cold shoulder, could leave Seoul out of the loop.


For a country still occupied by 150,000 US troops, you might have expected a bit more interest in the US election among Iraqis than there has been.

One man I met thought John Kerry was a candidate. He was once - back in the 2004 election.

And after their experiences since the 2003 invasion many are more than a little sceptical a new US president will make much difference to their lives.

Iraqis are more focused on how much their government concedes in negotiations with Washington over a security pact - which has to be signed before the end of the year, before Mr Obama takes office.

Among those who have been following the campaign, the dominant message to him seems to be: Don't rush to pull out US troops.

There is less violence than before, but it has not stopped. Few believe the country is heading yet towards a permanent peace.

President-elect Obama's position has been that it is time for US troops to come home and Iraqis to sort things out themselves.

But many fear too quick an American withdrawal - without major political progress - will lead to civil war which could in turn become a regional conflict.

There are no good options in Iraq for the next US president.


Relations between China and the US are unlikely to change too much when Barack Obama becomes the next US president.

On the campaign trail, Mr Obama said he would push China on its human rights record and its support of repressive governments, such as Zimbabwe.

But the next US president will probably not push too hard on these issues. There are more pressing economic problems to deal with.

Last year the US had a trade deficit of more than $250bn (160bn) with China, according to US figures. It is an enormous sum that worries many in the US.

There is also the on-going financial crisis to deal with. China is being encouraged by some to use its foreign exchange reserves to help out the West.

The new president will also be wary of spoiling a relationship that has avoided major hiccups in recent years.

The two countries have also shown they can work together, pushing North Korea towards disabling its nuclear facilities.


Speak to Palestinians and read their newspaper editorials, and you will find relief at the imminent end of the current US administration.

They never saw George W Bush as an honest peace broker, but have higher hopes for Barack Obama.

It is true that many Palestinians were upset, earlier this year, when Mr Obama said Jerusalem should be the "undivided" capital of Israel, even though he did backtrack on that comment somewhat.

But others were heartened by the fact that, unlike John McCain, he did at least visit the occupied Palestinian territories, albeit for little more than an hour.

Palestinians were encouraged when Mr Obama made a commitment to work for a breakthrough in the conflict "from the minute I'm sworn into office."

Most are pleased that he will now get the chance to prove that. But they are also wary, as they have had hopes dashed many times in the past.


Afghanistan will be the top foreign policy priority for president-elect Barack Obama.

The fight against the Taleban insurgency is not going well. A draft report by America's 16 intelligence agencies warned that Afghanistan is on a "downward spiral."

Mr Obama visited the country this summer and is committed to sending more troops here.

He has made comments about the US getting tougher with Pakistan over safe havens for the Taleban and al-Qaeda in the country's border areas, which were warmly welcomed in Kabul.

But Mr Obama's relationship with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai could well be frosty.

The new president will expect Mr Karzai to do more to end endemic corruption in the Afghan government.


No country in the world watched the outcome of the US election more closely than Iran.

This is simultaneously one of the most cut off, and in a strange way, one of the most globalised, countries on earth.

Despite the "Death to America" slogans at government endorsed rallies, most ordinary Iranians long for an end to their international isolation.

They believe they have a better chance of dialogue with a president whose names means "he with us" in Farsi - Uw, ba, Ma - Barack Obama, than with his defeated rival who once jokingly sang "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".

As for those in power here, the equation is a bit more complicated.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sounds as if he believes his rhetoric about America being the Great Satan. For this world view, it would have been much simpler to have a US president you can paint as a new version of George W Bush.

By contrast, despite his uncompromising language, President Ahmadinejad wants and needs a reconciliation with the US as he faces re-election next summer at a time of growing economic crisis in Iran.

And almost all Iranians hold a firm belief that their country is of global importance, at the centre of the world stage, demanding urgent attention from the new US president. But they could be disappointed.


Barack Obama's focus will remain on Pakistan's battle against Islamist militants operating along the Afghan border.

But his administration can be expected to broaden US engagement with Pakistan.

It is likely to see greater involvement with Democratic forces than it did the outgoing Republicans, which focused on ties with the army.

It will support a bill that promises $15bn in non-military assistance to Pakistan over 10 years, with the purpose of strengthening democracy and the economy.

But Mr Obama will be more inclined to tie military aid to Pakistan's performance in combating the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

And rhetorically he has also been more belligerent than either the competing presidential candidate, John McCain, or the outgoing President, George Bush.

For over a year Mr Obama has advocated unilateral strikes against suspected militant targets inside Pakistan, if necessary without the approval of the Pakistani government. That's a policy reportedly only endorsed by Mr Bush in July.

Islamabad has said these attacks violate its territory and undermine its own counter-insurgency actions. It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama will heed these protests as president.


"I will repair the strained relationship with our southern neighbour," promised Barack Obama.

In a move to improve relations, he has proposed annual meetings with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon and the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to seek active involvement of citizens, labour, the private sector and non-governmental organisations in setting the agenda and making progress.

Regarding the issue of drug and arms smuggling, Mr Obama is determined to improve intelligence and technology to allow US and Mexican authorities to track and dismantle the drug-trafficking cartels.

Furthermore, with growing fears of unemployment among Mexicans, Mr Obama will increase foreign assistance for businesses in Mexico, ensuring that they can realise their dreams south of the border, reducing illegal immigration.

He also says he will improve border security and take strict measures against human trafficking, which threatens lives on both sides of the border.


Polls show that more than 70% of Canadians would, if they could, have voted for Barack Obama in the US presidential election.

Despite re-electing a Conservative government in Canada last month, it is generally accepted that that the US Democrats more closely mirror their northern neighbour's political culture than Republicans.

But there are fears, particularly in the business community, that President-elect Obama may be far more protectionist than his predecessor.

Canada is the US's largest trading partner with an astounding $1.5bn worth of goods crossing the border between the two countries every day.

At one point during the campaign, Mr Obama called for the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) between Canada, the US and Mexico to be re-negotiated.

It was left to his aides to assure alarmed Canadian diplomats that it had just been posturing campaign rhetoric.

Canadian business leaders are also keeping a wary eye on a Congress in Washington controlled by the Democrats, amidst fears that they will be more likely than Republicans to call for protectionist measures.


Kenya has thrown its weight behind its "son" Barack Obama, whose father - a man he barely knew - hailed from Nyanza Province.

Although the senator from Illinois made it clear during his last visit to Kenya in 2006 that his political priority was the American people, in Kenya having "one of your own" in the top job creates the expectation that it'll be "our turn to eat".

"Eating" in Kenyan parlance is a euphemism for enjoying the trappings of wealth. It is a form of political patronage that sees goodies distributed on the basis of who you know.

So many Kenyans believe that having Mr Obama as president can only mean progress for Kenya.

For some they're pinning their hopes on an increased chance of getting a visa to the US.

For businesses in Kisumu - the main town in Western Province close to the village which is Mr Obama's father's ancestral home - they express hopes that an Obama presidency will mean more funding for key infrastructural projects such as hospitals and roads.

The reality is that Mr Obama's priority will have to be the American people, and probably the most he will be able to offer his Kenyan brothers and sisters is a role model of political leadership, that many feel is absent here.


It goes without saying that the French are pleased with Barack Obama's victory.

Had the election been held here there would have been no contest.

Opinion polls have consistently estimated that more than eight in 10 French people would have backed him, and according to one recent survey only 1% would have voted for John McCain.

For some commentators, never have the French been so infatuated with a candidate for the White House.

No doubt for many he represents everything that is not George Bush, whose pitiful standing in France never recovered from the acrimonious fall-out over the US invasion of Iraq.

Could an Obama-type figure emerge in France? Among the rare black politicians here, there is a feeling that the main obstacle is not the French people but the political system.


While Barack Obama may not be quite so fawning as his predecessor in praising Israel and its leaders, there is unlikely to be anything but a seamless continuation of US support for the predominantly Jewish state.

Traditional Jewish backing for the Democratic Party did not change, but many Israelis are concerned that Mr Obama has indicated he may be willing to talk to Israel's enemies, most notably Iran.

Mr Obama's apparent backtracking over his statement that Jerusalem "must remain undivided" also showed what a potential banana-skin this region can be for even the most gifted and usually eloquent of politicians.

George W Bush did not engage directly with the Middle East peace process until almost the last year of his presidency. Barack Obama says he'll take an interest from the start but may be restricted in what he will able to do by the domestic economic crisis in the US.


In the last two months of the US election campaign South Africa's president has been deposed and its main political party split.

But 14 years after South Africa elected its first black president, Barack Obama's bid to follow suit has remained front page news.

In a country acutely aware of race and its role in politics Mr Obama appears South Africa's overwhelming preference.

On election day itself one newspaper proclaimed "Obamania: World Wants Illinois Senator in White House".

That preference appears to be based more on symbolism than any evidence that Mr Obama will mean a real change in bilateral relations.

In fact it's possible that America's next president may be less favourable to Africa than his often derided predecessor.

George W Bush is widely credited with increasing foreign aid for Africa and for South Africa in particular, his support of HIV/Aids-related projects has been welcome.

Mr Obama has promised to double foreign aid - but his running mate Joe Biden has already suggested that the global financial crisis may mean that commitment not being met.

President Bush is also credited with the African Growth and Opportunities Act which allows African countries like South Africa to export selected goods into the US tariff free.

With the Democrats enjoying closer ties to the trade unions and a recession imminent there may now be pressure on President Obama to take a more protectionist stance.


Gordon Brown will be keen to have some "face time" with the president-elect ahead of the international financial summit in Washington on the 15th of this month.

Once Mr Obama is inaugurated in January, it is reported that the prime minister wants to jostle to the front of the queue of European leaders anxious to be seen with him first.

Downing Street insiders hope that, with Gordon Brown's massive experience of ministerial office, he can become something of a mentor to the relatively inexperienced "leader of the free world". And there are some encouraging signs.

On a Downing Street visit this summer, which Mr Obama described as "terrific", he talked of strengthening the trans-Atlantic relationship to help solve global problems.

And in a telephone address to a gathering of Democrats Abroad in London this Spring, he talked about "recalibrating" the special relationship with Britain; no longer would the UK government be regarded as a lackey or lapdog - instead "the United Kingdom will work with America as a full partner".

But the road to the White House is paved with good intentions.

Now that Mr Obama has arrived on Pennsylvania Avenue, the relationship with Britain in some areas will be friendly, in others fiery.

It's likely that Mr Obama - keen to reduce the US presence in Iraq - will give Gordon Brown the cover he requires to get British troops out of their remaining redoubts near Basra; although the two men disagreed on going into Iraq, they will probably agree on an exit strategy.


In a country like Brazil where there are more people of African descent than anywhere in the world outside of Africa itself, it is perhaps not surprising that polls suggest Barack Obama attracts higher levels of support - at least among those following the US election.

That mood was summed up in remarks by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who speaking before the election, viewed the potential victory of America's first African-American president as a remarkable event.

While recognising that he did not know either candidate well, the president added: "In the same way Brazil could elect a metal worker (President Lula), Bolivia an indigenous president (Evo Morales), Venezuela elected Hugo Chavez, and Paraguay a bishop (Fernando Lugo), I think it would be an extraordinary moment if the biggest economy in the world were to elect a black man as president."

It would be one of the few benefits of the recent economic crisis, he said.

However, it is how the new president in the US handles that crisis which will most hold the attention of Latin America's largest country from now on.

Brazil's economy was growing at 5-6% when the recent economic storm struck, threatening to undermine at least some of this recent progress.

As with other developing countries, there is an anxiety here to see stability return to world markets as soon as possible.

Brazil is also keen to see a "level playing field" in which to sell its goods and there may well be anxiety if a Barack Obama presidency turns out to be more protectionist than that of John McCain, who had, for example, pledged to lift tariffs on Brazilian ethanol.

While it seems Brazil's emotional side may enjoy the symbolism of Barack Obama's election, its leaders will also carefully watch to see if the new president engages more with Latin America than his predecessor.

As well as supporting demands for more open trade, backing Brazil's long-standing desire for greater access to important world institutions such as the UN Security Council would be welcome here.


Reaction from Russia can be summed up by the words "anyone but McCain".

In Moscow there is relief rather than celebration.

John McCain's views on Russia are well known, and hostile.

During the election campaign he once famously said that he had looked in the eyes of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and seen three letters, K, G and B.

What having Mr Obama as president will mean for US-Russia relations is less sure.

Most commentators here have focused on the fact that he is young, a "post baby-boomer" and that because of that he lacks a "cold war mentality" ie he's not imbued with a deep ideological hostility to Russia.

That sets him apart from John McCain. But few are expecting an Obama presidency to bring any sudden thaw in relations either.

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