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November 04, 2011

Obama Hopes to Build on G20 Progress

by Kent Klein

After the two-day G20 economic summit in France was dominated by the debt crisis in Greece, President Barack Obama says he will keep pressing for quick action to solve the crisis.  The president also vows to continue his push for legislation that would help create jobs in America.

President Obama left the French resort city of Cannes Friday, expressing optimism that Europe can solve its economic problems, a key step toward boosting the world's economic recovery.

But he and other non-European G20 leaders want swift action on the spreading European debt crisis. “Having heard from our European partners over the past two days, I am confident that Europe has the capacity to meet this challenge.  I know it isn’t easy, but what is absolutely critical, and what the world looks for in moments such as this, is action," he said.

European G20 leaders resolved to attack the debt problem.  But the immediate action the Obama administration had hoped for did not materialize.

Mr. Obama offered further advice and encouragement to his European counterparts, but no U.S. financial help.

Still, the president said some progress was made in Cannes.  Italy, a top European economy, may have prevented problems similar to the ones in Greece by allowing the International Monetary Fund to monitor its economy.  And G20 leaders agreed to give the IMF more resources to fight financial crises.

"Europe remains on track to implement a sustainable path for Greece.  Italy has agreed to a monitoring program with the IMF, in fact, invited it.  Tools have been identified that will better enable the world to support European action," he said.

The concerns of other G20 countries about the state of the U.S. economy were underscored by the release of more figures showing lackluster job creation last month.  

Mr. Obama used the occasion to again call on Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs legislation, saying his economic program is making some progress. "Is that good enough?  Absolutely not.  We've got to do more.  And as soon as I get some signal from Congress that they're willing to take their responsibilities seriously, I think we can do more," he said.

The president and Republicans in the House of Representatives are offering separate and quite different bills on job creation.

Some other G20 leaders praised Mr. Obama's plan, and he will spend the next few days promoting it to the American public.

While most of the summit in Cannes focused on Europe's economy, China agreed to speed efforts to raise the value of its currency, the RMB, which President Obama had been planning to call for. "In addition, we welcome China's determination to increase the flexibility of the RMB.  This is something we've been calling for for some time, and it will be a critical step in boosting growth," he said.

The U.S. and other countries welcomed China's stated intent to open its markets to more imports.  Obama administration officials say the Chinese announcements reflect concern in Beijing about risks to its economy from Europe's financial troubles.

The most urgent non-economic item covered in Cannes, Iran's nuclear program, will be raised again in the coming days.  An International Atomic Energy Agency report due soon is expected to show that Iranian scientists are making progress toward learning to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran has repeatedly denied that its nuclear program is for military purposes.

Meanwhile, in the coming days, Mr. Obama will campaign for his jobs program, before leaving for the next series of international meetings.

He will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the North American leaders' summit in his home state of Hawaii.  He will go on to visit Australia, then to the Indonesian resort of Bali for the East Asia Summit.