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Obama to Push G20 to Tackle Long-Term Debt

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama goes to the G20 economic summit in France this week with hopes of helping Europe move toward a long-term solution for its debt crisis. The president also is trying to convince the other G20 countries that America’s economic and political problems can be overcome.

Europe's debt crisis, which recently led to riots in the streets of Athens, will lead the agenda at this week’s summit of the world's economic powers in the French resort city of Cannes.

Last week’s agreement by the European Union to enlarge its bailout fund and cut Greece’s debt was expected to ease some of the pressure on the G20 leaders. But Monday's decision by Greek leaders to hold a referendum on the bailout throws the deal into question.

Obama called the agreement an important first step, but said more work lies ahead.

“The key now is to make sure that it is implemented fully and decisively, and I have great confidence in the European leadership to make that happen,” said the president.

America’s economic and political problems may also come up at the G20. Stubborn high unemployment has stifled the US economic recovery. And partisan bickering has led to questions from other countries about Washington's ability to address its economic problems.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured the G20 partners the president is making progress on these issues.

“So he carries with him to France the fact that we are pushing our Congress to act on these matters, and he comes as the leader of the largest economy in the world and a great friend and ally of a great many nations,” said Carney.

Another of Obama’s priorities in Cannes is to push for greater access to overseas markets for American exports.

“We have got to get into a posture where the U.S. is always going to be a big market, and we are going to welcome goods from all around the world, but we’ve also got to be selling goods around the world,” said Obama.

The president will continue to bring up the sensitive issue of the value of China’s currency, according to Matthias Matthijs, an assistant professor of international political economy at American University in Washington.

“So basically, the United States is the debtor country and thinks that the Chinese are exporting because of unfair trade practices, and then the Chinese think that the Americans basically print too much money and manipulate their economy that way,” said Matthijs.

Scheherazade Rehman, the director of George Washington University’s European Union Research Center, doubts that the president’s views on China’s currency will get much European support.

“They are so caught up in putting out their own fires that they cannot fathom that this is a good time to bring up a currency war with China," said Rehman. "From President Obama’s point of view, this is a good time, so he can show the American people that ‘Look, we are going to do whatever we can to keep jobs at home.’”

These and other issues will be covered in just two days. Obama and the other G20 leaders arrive in Cannes early Thursday and leave late Friday.