Obama tries to rally world to cope with downturn | AspenTimes.com

Obama tries to rally world to cope with downturn

Jennifer Loven
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, talk with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London, Wednesday April 1, 2009.(AP Photo/John Stillwell, pool)

LONDON ” On the eve of a global economic summit, President Barack Obama promised world leaders he would listen, not lecture, as they seek a common fix to the financial crisis. “We can only meet this challenge together,” he said Wednesday as the U.S. and Russia spoke on the summit sidelines about nuclear warhead reduction.

The diplomatic activity came as Obama stepped on the world stage for the first time as president, aiming to shore up America’s economy and its reputation across the globe. He met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao ” and promptly accepted invitations to visit Russia in July and China later in the year.

Thousands of protesters converged on central London to rally against the economic summit.

Obama and Medvedev announced talks to limit the number of nuclear warheads, the first major negotiations in years over what Obama called the “gravest threat to humanity.”

Meanwhile, speaking to anxious families back home, Obama sought to restore consumer confidence and encourage people to think about spending now to help their future.

“Basing decisions around fear is not the right way to go,” he said. “We are going to get through this difficult time.”

The president also disputed assertions that the United States was feuding with other nations about the need to pump more money into economic stimulus policies.

“I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems,” Obama said.

Obama prodded nations to spur growth and work together on regulatory reform, and not fall into the protectionism and other mistakes that helped fuel the Great Depression.

“That is a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat,” Obama said during a news conference with Brown.

Brown, too, sought to play up consensus. “We are within a few hours, I think, of agreeing a global plan for economic recovery and reform,” he said.

On Russia, the White House said the U.S. and its former Cold War foe are determined to reduce the number of nuclear warheads but have not settled on a specific number.

“I think people on both sides of the Atlantic understand that, as much as the constant cloud ” the threat of nuclear warfare ” has receded since the Cold War, that the presence of these deadly weapons, their proliferation, the possibility of them finding their way into the hands of terrorists continues to be the gravest threat to humanity,” Obama said.

The discussion centers on a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which limited the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. START expires Dec. 5. Both nations say they want to have a new agreement in place before then.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama acknowledged that relations between the two nations have been strained but said the time had come to emphasize areas where they could work together.

Regarding China, the White House said Obama and Hu agreed to “intensify coordination and cooperation on global economic and financial issues.” As economic leaders, the United States and China say they want to work together to address the economic crisis.

Officials in both Russia and China have called for a new global currency to end the dollar’s dominance, although it’s unlikely that the idea will gain immediate traction.

Obama’s talks with Hu were sure to address Beijing’s concerns about the safety of its position as Washington’s biggest foreign creditor, with about $1 trillion in U.S. government debt. For the U.S., there are fears that any Chinese flight away from those investments would erode the U.S. ability to spend more on fighting the recession.

The administration also announced that it will continue high-level talks with China but reduce the frequency to one meeting a year, instead of two. The first meeting under Obama will be held this summer in the U.S.

The G-20 summit opened with a working dinner Wednesday night. Obama sat in between the leaders of Germany and South Korea, and was directly across from Argentina’s president. Summit meetings continue Thursday.

Before the summit even opened, divisions emerged among nations’ leaders.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed dissatisfaction with how the summit has been shaping up and warned he would rather risk a public dispute than accept a vague consensus or a “false compromise.”

Brown said he was confident Sarkozy would still be at the table when the dinner was complete.

In London, Obama also met with Brown’s main rival ” David Cameron, the leader of Britain’s opposition Conservative Party.

During the early evening hours, he and first lady Michelle Obama headed to Buckingham Palace for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II. Thousands of well-wishers gathered in front of the palace to wave as the presidential limo passed.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User