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Globalization, particularly in the form of free trade, has improved the lives of "billions of people," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday, defending the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement being sought with the European Union.

TTIP is under negotiation, but its future is in doubt as both US presidential candidates to succeed Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have reservations about it. Popular opinion in several European countries is also hostile.

"TTIP will not lower standards. On the contrary, it will raise standards on labour and consumer rights, environmental protection and will ensure an open and free internet network, a key element for our digital economies," Obama told Italian daily La Repubblica.

"For all these reasons, the United States remains committed to bring the TTIP negotiations to an end, and this will require the political will of all of our countries," he added.

Arguing that "protectionism makes our economies weaker," Obama said "our global integrated economy, including trade, has helped make life better for billions of people all over the world. Extreme poverty has been drastically reduced."

Responding to a question about rising anti-globalization movements on both sides of the Atlantic, the outgoing US president recognized there was a need to share the benefits of globalization more equally through regulation and "inclusive" economic policies.

"Many people think they have lost out from trade and immigration," he said. "We need to keep up our values and traditions as plural and diverse societies; and we need to reject 'us' versus 'them' politics, which seeks to turn migrants and minorities into scapegoats."

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