NEW YORK (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday called on world leaders in New York to reject nationalism and fight to preserve the multilateral system, challenging U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-globalism stance.
May used her address at the United Nations General Assembly, chaired by Trump, to warn that “aggressive nationalism” could replace the rules-based international order unless leaders revived public confidence in the current system.
“If we lack the confidence to step up, others will,” she said, citing examples from the last century like the rise of fascism or the spread of communism. She said such trends were resurfacing in Europe and beyond.
“We have seen what happens when the natural patriotism which is a cornerstone of a healthy society is warped into aggressive nationalism, exploiting fear and uncertainty to promote identity politics at home and belligerent confrontation abroad, while breaking rules and undermining institutions.”
On Tuesday, Trump used his annual address to the United Nations to lay down a defiant message that he will reject globalism and protect American interests: “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”
May’s officials said the speech was not aimed at Trump and had been largely written before she had seen his remarks. The two were due to hold bilateral talks before May flies back to London.
Nevertheless, her response zeroed in on Trump’s comments.
“We must learn the lessons of the past and show through our actions how cooperation between strong and accountable states with open economies and inclusive societies can best deliver security and prosperity for all our people,” she said.
May also expressed her support for a free and fair media - another position which puts her at odds with Trump, who has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.
“Like many leaders, I suspect, I do not always enjoy reading what the media in my country writes about me,” May said. “But I will defend their right to say it – for the independence of our media is one of my country’s greatest achievements, and it is the bedrock of our democracy.”
Reporting by William James; editing by Jonathan Oatis