News / USA

Obama Discusses Economy, Chinese Currency, Pakistan

In a news conference at the White House, President Barack Obama discussed the U.S. economy and demonstrations against Wall Street, efforts to persuade a divided Congress to pass his jobs legislation, and successes against al-Qaida.

He took the opportunity to ask Congress to approve his $447 billion jobs bill that he says will boost the economy, as anti-Wall Street protests continue in New York and other cities.

In recent travels across the country, Mr. Obama has tried to mobilize public opinion in his favor and escalated rhetorical attacks on specific Republican leaders, such as Representative Eric Cantor.

He began with another appeal for passage of the American Jobs Act, calling it vital when the U.S. economy is fragile and Europe is dealing with its own financial crisis.

"Our economy really needs a jolt right now," said the president. "This is not a game. This is not the time for the usual political gridlock. The problems Europe is having today could have a very real effect on our economy at a time when it is already fragile."

Republicans controlling the House of Representatives have refused to bring Mr. Obama's entire bill up for a vote. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to take up the the bill next week.

Saying he is open to plans from Republicans for a similar jobs bill, he challenged Republican senators who would reject his bill to explain their votes to Americans.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on Capitol Hill before Mr. Obama's news conference, accused the president and Democrats of failing to seek bipartisan solutions.

"Instead of working across the aisle with Republicans on solutions that would help put people back to work, Democrats have fallen back to tired talking points, the same stale rhetoric we have heard literally for years" McConnell said.

On demonstrations on Wall Street in New York and other cities by Americans angry over the economy and unemployment, President Obama said the protests reflect broad aggravation with how the financial system works.

"I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street," he said. "And yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place."

Mr. Obama also said growth depends on having a strong financial sector, but deceptive practices expose the economy to "enormous risks" and were the target of regulatory legislation passed by Congress.

He said he believes European leaders recognize the urgency of coordinated action to solve their problems, adding he hopes they have a "clear, concrete plan" by the time of the G-20 summit in France early next month.

And he repeated the U.S. position that China needs to make further progress in allowing its currency to appreciate against the dollar, saying Beijing continues to "game" the global trading system to its advantage.

On Pakistan, the president said progress against al-Qaida could not have been accomplished without cooperation from the government in Islamabad, which he called an effective partner.

However, he voiced concern about what he called Pakistani "ambivalence" about some U.S. goals in Afghanistan and expressed concern about links between Pakistan's military and intelligence services with the Haqqani militant network.

"There is no doubt that there are some connections that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find troubling, and I have said that publicly and I have said it privately to Pakistani officials as well."

Mr Obama said Pakistan is playing both sides when it comes to Afghanistan, by maintaining interactions with some "unsavory characters" in the belief they might end up regaining power in Afghanistan after U.S. and coalition forces depart.

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