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October 17, 2013

Obama, Italy's PM Discuss Economic Issues

by VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama met at the White House Thursday with Italy's prime minister, Enrico Letta, whose country is also experiencing economic turmoil.

Prime Minister Letta congratulated Obama for the United States' avoiding a debt default.

"First of all, I congratulated President Obama, for yesterday’s success is his success, but it is also our success, because yesterday’s decision was very important for the stability in the markets in the world, in Europe and in Italy, first of all.  We need stability because we have such a big debt, so we need to have low interest rates," said Prime Minister Letta.

Letta said the decision by the U.S. Congress to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling is important for stability in world markets, including Italy, which is wrestling with its own massive debt.

Letta's government recently unveiled a package of new taxes and spending cuts.  The prime minister said Thursday that austerity without growth is a big problem.  President Obama congratulated Letta for winning a vote of confidence in parliament, saying it is clear Italy is moving in the right direction in stabilizing and reforming its finances.

"I want to congratulate him on having won a vote of confidence and passing a budget. I think it’s clear that Italy is moving in the right direction in stabilizing its finances and embarking on reforms that will make it more competitive. And we spent a lot of our time discussing the importance of European growth, that with high unemployment - particularly youth unemployment - and the challenges that have been created since 2008, as well as the challenges within the eurozone, I think it’s important for all of us to coordinate.  And the United States obviously is not part of Europe, but we have a great interest in Europe because if Europe is doing well, that means that we’re doing well also," said President Obama.

Obama also spoke of what he says is the importance of economic coordination between the United States and the eurozone - still struggling to fully recover from the 2008 recession.

Additionally, the two discussed Syria, Libya, and the problem of migrants trying to escape northern Africa for Europe across the Mediterranean Sea - with at times deadly results.  Letta said the Mediterranean must not turn into a death sea.