Obama needs and deserves Europe's co-operation

Concluding paragraphs from my column in today's FT:

In his very first acts [on Guantanamo and interrogation of detainees] Mr Obama has affirmed his desire to restore the country's international reputation. If polls are to be believed, the rest of the world wanted Mr Obama to win the presidency even more than Americans did. They wanted a US president to look up to and co-operate with. That is what they got. It is not too soon to see if co-operation works both ways.

Joint action will be needed in foreign and security policy, but even more urgent is the need for economic co-ordination. Much more than most Americans realise, Mr Obama needs the help of other governments on the economy. Whether the US can reflate its way out of this still-worsening recession single-handed is debatable. Beyond dispute is that the chances of success would be much improved if governments in Europe and elsewhere moved to stimulate their economies as aggressively as the US is preparing to do.

Europe, especially, continues to drag its feet on economic stimulus, even though a severe recession now threatens the whole of the eurozone. Its interest rates should be at zero with quantitative easing under way, and many countries (notably Germany) should be applying far stronger fiscal stimulus. This is in Europe's own interests - but, since it is in US interests as well, Mr Obama is entitled to press. And so he should.

The rest of the world likes Mr Obama's initiative on Guantánamo more than many Americans do. His move was correct on its merits: it was also pleasing to world opinion, and not without risk at home. Just as he has reached out to Republicans on the stimulus, in almost his first act Mr Obama has given US allies something they said they wanted. Will they reciprocate? If so, let it be sooner rather than later. If not, right at the start, the president will have learnt a useful lesson.