Friday, April 03, 2009

Obama "optimistic" at G20 result

President Barack Obama: "confident and optimistic"

Appearing before journalists following the G20 Summit U.S. President Barack Obama said the meeting was “productive" and “historic”. There was no real sense of excitement as hundreds of journalists waited for the leader to give his thoughts on the outcome. Many were tired after a long day and it was, after all a repeat of what Gordon Brown had already said.

However, Obama was nonetheless the star of the show, exuding a sense of charisma not seen in other G20 leaders. Stepping onto the stage some 40 minutes later than expected, Obama said he was generally confident and optimistic in what had been achieved.

"By any measure the London Summit was historic,” he told the news conference, “not only because of the size and scope of the challenges we face, but also because of the timeliness and magnitude of our response."

"The challenge is clear, and the global economy is retracting," he declared, but said the world was now at the "turning point of our economic and global recovery."

"Today the world's leader have responded with a set of unprecedented and coordinated actions," Obama told reporters.

There was, he said a strong consensus in rejecting protectionism. "History tells us that turning inward can help turn a downturn into a depression" Obama said, declaring that the agreements reached signalled support for open markets. "Today we have learnt the lessons of history and we are committed to growth and job creation," Obama said

He said that there had been agreements on facilitating "bold action to help developing countries" and injecting huge sums into the IMF to help struggling economies. "In an age where our economies are more closely linked than ever before, the whole world is touched by this devastating downturn," Obama said.

The president then made a pledge to help those most vulnerable in the world. Obama saying he would seek authority from the U.S congress to enable 448 million dollars to be diverted into helping Africa's poor as well as those in Latin America. But he insisted this was not charity. It was, he said, an effort to help what he called "future markets" that would one day drive economic growth.

Turning to the importance if implementing a better regulatory system, Barack Obama said, "We must put an end to bust and bubble economic policies," adding that risk taking which had been so harmful to the economy must end. He and the G20 partners had also agreed to greater transparency and said new regulations would be applied to hedge funds and tax havens.

The President did concede that bringing together 20 nations and making a deal was not easy. “Each country has its own non-negotiable issues,” he said, and added that more work may yet need to be done.

"This is not a panacea but it is a critical step," he declared, "But we may have to take additional steps until we get it right." It was hard to bridge differences, Obama said, and not everything was solved. He therefore welcomed another meeting scheduled for late 2009. He said that the summit had however achieved a great deal, partly he said due to the hard work that Gordon Brown had put in to organise the meeting.

"America is a critical actor and leader on the world stage," he said boastfully, but, he added, "We may not always have the best answer" to the problems the world faces. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

While in general there was strong consensus, there did appear to be some conflicts of policy. In an apparent comment at Gordon Brown comments at attempting to stop the rampant bonus culture seen in Britain, Obama said, "We don't want the state dictating salaries." But he added that there must be more accountability.

There are no guarantees in life or economics, Obama said but insisted the steps in the communiqué were necessary.

In his final summing up Barack Obama was thoughtful and philosophical. He even joked with reporters during the Q&A that followed. But he also spoke as a true statesman, with confidence and with optimism.

"Ultimately the challenges of the 21st century cannot be met without collective action. Agreement will almost never be easy, and result will not always come easy. But I am committed to respecting different points of view and to forging a consensus instead of dictating our terms. That's how we made progress in the last few days and that's how we will advance the deals in the months and years to come."

"In a world that's more and more interconnected we all have responsibilities to work together to solve common challenges. And although it will take time, I am confident that we will rebuild global prosperity if we act with a common sense of purpose, persistence and the optimism that the moment demands."

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