Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on his way to the United States for his first meeting with President Barack Obama. The global financial crisis will feature heavily during Mr. Rudd's discussions in Washington. During his two-week trip overseas, the prime minister will also head to London for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations.
Senior members of the Australian government say that Kevin Rudd's two-week trip to the United States and Europe could well be his most important as prime minister, as the world faces what they call its "most savage" economic crisis in 80 years.
The threat posed by the global recession will be a key focus of Prime Minister Rudd's first meeting with President Obama at the White House. Mr. Rudd is anxious to see the reform of troubled American banks and the eradication of so-called toxic debt, which includes troubled mortgages.
The Australian leader will then take his vision for a reformed global banking system to the G20 summit in London, where he is expected to call for more resources to be made available for the International Monetary Fund, which oversees the world's financial system.
The Rudd government also wants China to play a more central role in the IMF to help the international community emerge from its economic situation.
Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd heads overseas at a time when the local economy is quickly sliding into reverse.
"Growth will be slower, unemployment will be higher and, at this time in the global economy, there could not be a more important time for an Australian prime minister to be talking to a new U.S. president and to be attending a leaders' meeting of the 20 largest economies in the world; both developed and developing," Swan said.
The war in Afghanistan and Australia's role in the military effort against Taliban insurgents will also be a major talking point between the two leaders in Washington.
Before leaving for the United States, Mr. Rudd said he would consider sending more Australian troops to Afghanistan, if the Obama administration asks for them.
Two Australian soldiers have been killed fighting militants in the troubled country, in the past week, bringing to ten the number of Australian combat casualties in Afghanistan.