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Bush Pushes Free Markets In Run Up To Economic Summit


U.S. President Bush is stressing the importance of free markets as he prepares to host a global economic summit in Washington. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the president used a speech in the heart of New York's financial district Thursday to spell out the principles he believes should guide efforts to help world economy.

The president's address was short on new proposals, but it did provide a look at just how he approaches the summit.

He stressed the importance of bringing world leaders together to assess the problem, and look for solutions. But he made clear he does not want the summit to act in haste.

"This crisis did not develop overnight, and it is not going to be solved overnight," said President Bush.

He said global financial reforms are needed. But he said they must be implemented carefully so they do not choke off the free market system.

"While reforms in the financial sector are essential, the long-term solution to today's problems is sustained economic growth," said Mr. Bush. "And the surest path to that growth is free markets and free people."

Mr. Bush stressed the free market system is not to blame for the current fiscal crisis. He acknowledged there have been failures by individuals, firms, and government officials. But he said the system itself remains the best path to economic growth.

"The answer is not to try to reinvent the system," he said. "It is to fix the problems we face, make the reforms we need, and move forward with the free market principles that have delivered prosperity and hope to people all across the globe."

The upcoming global economic summit comes in the final months of the Bush presidency, and less than two weeks after the election of Barack Obama as his successor.

The White House has defended the timing of the meeting, saying it is important to launch a process now and identify what needs to be done.

The president-elect has signaled his support for the venture. But he has made clear this is George Bush's summit.

"We must recognize that we only have one president at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government," said Barack Obama.

Experts in international economics and trade say Mr. Obama is right to stay away from a summit being held so soon after his election victory.

Steven Schrage is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He says it will be up to Barack Obama to take the financial reform process launched by George Bush at the Washington summit, and make some tough decisions.

"It's really going to be up to the next administration to figure, do they breathe life into this," asked Steven Schrage. "Does this go forward? Do they take it in a different direction?"

The summit marks the first time that the G-20, a grouping of the world's leading developed and emerging economies (19 countries plus the European Union), has met at the top leadership level. Participants will attend a dinner at the White House on Friday, and hold their formal meetings on Saturday.