Special Feature

Multilateralism — The World's Viewpoint

We collected the most interesting quotes on how the world views the U.S. approach to a multilateral global system.

One-world approach to multilateral global order?

Takeaways


Whatever the United States does has global consequences. That cannot be said for most other countries. Given that basic imbalance, there are naturally diverging views about the merits of multilateralism. Our Read My Lips feature examines why many in the global community favor a multilateral world order.


“Unilateralism, like beauty, often lies in the eye of the beholder. One man’s unilateralism is another’s determined leadership.”
(EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, June 2001)


“Terrorism and organized crime can only be resolved through international cooperation based upon the principles of multilateralism — and of international law.”
(Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, January 2003)


“The thing I fear is not American unilateralism, it is actually American isolationism — were it ever to go down that path.”
(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, November 2003)


“Many in Europe feel that the biggest threat to the global order is not rogue states, but the dominance of America — hence the need to shackle it with treaties and multilateral organizations.”
(John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, correspondents for The Economist, April 2003)


“We cannot accept either a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyperpower.”
(Former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, June 2001)


“People across the world — Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims — are standing up against the imposition of a unilateral world order. It cuts across the simplistic division of the world into Islam vs. Christianity.”
(M.J. Akbar, editor of Asian Age, March 2003)


“If the United States believes it does not need to respect multilateralism and international rules, how do you get China to respect them?”
(Senior European diplomat, July 2002)


“We can no longer take it for granted that our multilateral institutions are strong enough to cope with all these challenges.”
(UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, September 2003)


“In the end, the same rules must apply for the big, middle-sized and small countries.”
(German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, March 2003)


“Most of the world is searching for ways to reinforce a badly bruised multilateralism. The trade agenda provides an opportunity for a show of leadership by Europe — and by the emerging players China, India and Brazil.”
(Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune columnist, November 2003)


“The politicians’ lemming-like rush into bilateral agreements poses a deadly threat to the multilateral trading system.”
(Jagdish Bhagwati, university professor at Columbia University, July 2003)


“The multilateral trading system could become the battle ground for unsettled geopolitical disputes — with disastrous consequences.”
(Ernesto Zedillo, former Mexican President, May 2003)


“In this game where everyone needs the United States, and the United States needs allies, the problem is this: Can we have a minimum of strength to give value to our own positions and to attract the United States toward a position that is more multilateral and less unilateral?”
(Alfredo Valladao, Brazilian academic at Sciences Po university in Paris, February 2004)


“Mr. Chirac and Mr. Blair are looking at the world through different ends of the telescope. Mr. Blair wants to demonstrate to the United States the advantages of multilateralism. Mr. Chirac wants to show that it will pay a heavy price for unilateralism.”
(Philip Stephens, Financial Times columnist, May 2003)

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