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An outward-looking leader for France

THE election of Emmanuel Macron as the new president of France was welcomed by many world leaders who had feared that France might go the way of the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) with their inward-looking protectionist policies.

When the UK voted in June, 2016, to leave the European Union, there was fear that the growing closeness among the nations of Europe could be unraveling. Soon afterwards, in November, 2016, the US elected President Donald Trump with his “America First” and his threat to retreat from its traditional allies both in Europe and in Asia. If Macron had lost in the French elections to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who, like Trump, wanted to keep immigrants out, that would have signaled the rise of ultra-conservative, protectionist thinking that could influence other nations, especially in Europe.

But Macron, the pro-European Union centrist, won. The first parties to lose in the first phase of the French election were the far-left Communists and the traditional Republicans. In the second and final phase of the election, the far-right Le Pen, who would have taken France out of the EU, lost. Her win would have continued and boosted the separatist movement started by Brexit.

It was a “victory for a strong and united Europe,” said a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was a “vote of confidence from France in the European Union,” said European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. In Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Macron’s win was a “victory against inward-looking and protectionist moves.”

Macron ran without a political party, only a movement he called En Marche (On the Move) which is barely a year old.

He had never run for political office before. His only experience in government was as economics minister in the cabinet of outgoing President Francois Hollande. For the people of France, he now plans economic reforms – to ease rigid labor laws that hold back employment, to improve education in deprived areas, and to increase welfare protection for the self-employed. His economic policies, which tend to favor the poor in his country, reminds us of our own President Duterte.

But it is as outward-looking leader who values close relations with other nations, especially those in his part of the world, that Macron is seen and his election welcomed by the world. We need greater interaction and cooperation among nations, and France, with its election of President Macron, has shown it is out to work closely with other nations in solving the many problems of the world today.

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