Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) nations continue discussions on Saturday focusing on ways to continue global economic recovery, while balancing stimulus with the need to bring down deficits. President Barack Obama on Friday urged leaders to build on past commitments, and senior U.S. officials said there was an emerging consensus on issues of sustaining growth, and fiscal responsibility.
After the first day of G8 discussions at a resort north of Toronto, some optimism was heard about a major question, whether member nations will be able to agree on a way forward to balance the need for more growth with action to hold down deficit spending.
Senior U.S. administration officials said President Obama stressed the need to maintain durable growth while saying the United States believes this should also involve fiscal consolidation and debt reduction in the medium term.
While there were different points of emphasis, U.S. officials said there was a "convergence of views" and a broad consensus on how to maintain growth while reaffirming a shared commitment to fiscal consolidation.
The G8 includes the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia. The larger G20 which begins its summit on Saturday includes major emerging powers as China, India and Brazil.
In pre-summit remarks on Friday, Mr. Obama said he hopes the G8 will build on progress already made by coordinating efforts for economic growth.
"We need to act in concert for a simple reason," he said. "This crisis proved and events continue to affirm that our national economies are inextricably linked, and just as economic turmoil in one place can quickly spread to another, safeguards in each of our nations can help protect all nations."
President Obama came to Canada strengthened by an agreement in the U.S. Congress on a final version of legislation to reform the U.S. financial system, a measure that could reach his desk soon if it is passed by both chambers of Congress.
Saying he is confident there will be consensus on a range of issues at the G8, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the U.S. financial reform victory could drive the G20 toward a similar result.
"I believe the progress that the U.S. has made will be be important in driving the world not just to agreements here but to conclusions on financial regulation within the kind of time frame we have been looking at," he said.
Many G8 leaders face demands in their countries for greater restraint in public spending and pressure to sharply reduce government budgets and deficits. Canada's Prime Minister Harper has called on G-20 nations to cut their deficits in half by 2013.
G8 leaders also met with their counterparts from Africa who were invited to the summit, and leaders from Haiti, Jamaica and Colombia, talks focusing on Millennium Development goals and policy, and maternal and child health.
Senior administration officials said Mr. Obama stressed the importance of mutual accountability and building sustainable systems in Africa, with African leaders echoing these views. There was a call for accountability reports next year from African governments and from the G8.
Canada on Friday announced a new G8 initiative to direct new resources to reducing maternal and infant mortality. A White House statement Friday listed areas in which the U.S. has fulfilled pledges in areas such as aid to Africa, debt relief, and global health and HIV/AIDS prevention.
On Saturday, G8 leaders will discuss global security issues, including Iran and North Korea. President Obama has the first of his bilateral meetings, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, China's President Hu Jintao and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea.