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Romney Wraps Foreign Tour (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By SARA MURRAY GDANSK, Poland 07/31/12)Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444405804577558821635238002.html WALL STREET JOURNAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
GDANSK, Poland—Mitt Romney will return his attention to economic issues during the final stop of his foreign tour in Poland, after drawing criticism Monday from Palestinians who said they found offensive his remarks about their standard of living.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee plans a speech lauding Poland´s relatively robust growth and spotlighting how a Romney presidency would tighten ties with the central European country—moves that could boost his standing with Polish-American voters.

Mr. Romney met former President Lech Walesa Monday in Gdansk and departed with the equivalent of an endorsement. "I wish you to be successful, because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too," Mr. Walesa said through a translator.

Mr. Walesa snubbed President Barack Obama by refusing to meet with him in Poland last year and has previously said Mr. Obama "doesn´t suit me."

Still, Mr. Walesa said Mr. Romney had some work to do to win the presidency. Charisma is something Mr. Romney "doesn´t really yet have, but he´s very observant. He gets it fast and draws conclusions, which means he has all the traits of a good leader. But he still needs to do some rallying," Mr. Walesa told news channel TVN24 after his meeting with Mr. Romney.

Earlier, before he departed Israel, Mr. Romney pointed out Israel´s brighter economic prospects compared with its Palestinian neighbors and suggested culture may have something to do with Israel´s success.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," he told a group of donors gathered at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. He added: "And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other: Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."

But Mr. Romney´s figures underestimated the actual gap between the economies. Per capita gross domestic product stood at $31,400 for Israel last year, while Palestinians´ per capita GDP was $1,500 in 2010, according to an April 2012 World Bank report, which attributed the figure to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and a top official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, and other Palestinians said Mr. Romney failed to note their lack of sovereignty and limitations enforced by Israeli military authorities. "If he checked his facts, he would know why the Palestinians actually have to build an economy when they have no freedom of movement, no human rights, no fundamental freedoms," she said.

The Romney campaign said Mr. Romney frequently talks about disparities between bordering nations. "This was not, in any way, an attempt to slight the Palestinians," said Stuart Stevens, the Romney campaign´s chief strategist.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, noted that Mr. Romney also created waves in England when he questioned the preparations for the London Olympics: "He´s had two countries where he´s made a series of fumbles…This raises some questions about his preparedness."

Mr. Romney hasn´t shied away from his support for Israel. He called Jerusalem the capital of Israel in a speech Sunday evening, prompting Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to denounce the comment as "unacceptable." Jerusalem isn´t internationally recognized as the capital because of disagreement over sovereignty in East Jerusalem, parts of the city captured in 1967 that the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state. Mr. Romney has also signaled a tougher approach to Iran´s nuclear ambitions, telling Israelis on Sunday that "no option should be excluded."

During his visit to Israel, Mr. Romney didn´t meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, but he did meet with the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. While he spoke publicly about Middle East issues with Israeli leaders, he and Mr. Fayyad mainly stuck to the Olympics.

Mr. Romney will return to his primary focus, the economy, in his speech on Tuesday.

The Polish economy grew 4.3% in 2011—though it has slowed this year— and Poland was the only country in the European Union to dodge the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. It has been buoyed by domestic consumption and increasing exports. Romney campaign aides also are fond of the country´s budget narrative: Amid rising deficits, officials cut government spending, and the economy is still growing. Mr. Romney regularly warns that ballooning U.S. budget deficits are sure to harm America´s long-term prosperity.

Mr. Romney also met with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and continues his meetings with dignitaries Tuesday. He may be greeted with more skepticism from other Polish leaders, particularly his declaration that Russia is a top "geopolitical foe" of the U.S. The Polish government has worked to thaw its historically tense relationship with Russia by emphasizing cooperation.

"They are certainly worried about Russia, but I don´t think they want to see us return to a new Cold War," said Stephen Flanagan, a defense and national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "I´m not sure what the Poles are looking for is a tougher line on Russia. They´re looking for more attention from Washington."

—Joshua Mitnick and Marcin Sobczyk contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 07/31/12)


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