HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama slipped on on a pair of virtual reality glasses bedecked with plastic googly eyes and mused about someday using the technology to talk with his daughter after she leaves home for college.
The display was but one of many stops on a two-hour tour of Hanover Messe, the world’s largest trade show of industrial technology, and a tour de force of economic diplomacy by Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“It’s a brave new world,” Obama said, doffing the glasses, and moving on to the next elaborate booth.
Obama often tours American businesses and factories - and often spends time with world leaders - but the marathon tour with Merkel was a sign of how much the leaders want to conclude talks on an EU-U.S. trade deal before Obama’s presidency ends on Jan. 20.
“This is another chance for me to tell everyone to come here and buy ‘Made in America,’” Obama said.
The high-profile visit was a way to promote the benefits of trade for the economy, said Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade representative, who is negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
“It helps underscore you can’t build walls around the U.S.,” Froman said in an interview.
Merkel personally invited Obama to feature U.S. businesses at the trade fair and almost 400 U.S. businesses were represented.
At times, the tour resembled a protracted television infomercial with the leaders gripping hand-held microphones to ask exhibitors about their products. A herd of photographers galloped from station to station to keep up.
“Chancellor Merkel is a scientist so she can figure this out very quickly,” Obama said as they examined the Gekko Gripper, a modest silver device able to grab hold of space debris.
“It reminds me of Spiderman,” Obama said. “Does it have any earthbound application?”
At the Siemens booth, Chief Executive Joe Kaeser presented Obama with a pair of golf clubs designed using the company’s software, a nod to the president’s favorite weekend pastime.
“I’m going to teach Angela how to play,” Obama said before posing for a photo.
Several stops featured 3-D printers. Obama joked he might soon buy one and start designing things.
“When I get out of office, I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands,” he said.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill Trott