Obama at G-20 summt acknowledges ‘hard work ahead’ on economy

President Obama said Friday that a summit of the world’s leading economies concluded with important steps to preserve an economic recovery he described as “fragile,” but acknowledged that “there is more hard work ahead and more difficult decisions to make.”

“The world faces challenges that put our economic recovery at risk,” Obama said at a news conference ending the Group of 20 summit in Cannes, France. “We’ve come together and made important progress to put our economic recoveries on firmer footing.”

The annual summit was dominated by the Greek debt crisis and the European plans to bail out the country, an issue that has thrown into question the continent’s common currency project and the durability of the world’s halting economic recovery.

Speaking after two days of meetings with European leaders, Obama said the conference had proven that the G-20 could come together and address shared concerns over the global economy, a subject that consumed his first such gathering in the spring of 2009 and continues to do so as he enters the final year of his first term.

Obama expressed confidence in the bailout plan to assist Greece, a politically challenging package for many of Europe’s larger economies, most notably Germany. Some doubts surrounding the plan abated during the meetings, and Obama said in addition to Greece, Italy has also agreed to monitoring from the International Monetary Fund to guard against its own debt crisis.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou abandoned plans as the summit got under way to put the bailout plan, which will require a new round of fiscal austerity measures to be implemented in a restless Greece, to popular referendum.

The decision eased concerns over the future of the package, at least temporarily, as well as the mounting questions over the future of the euro zone and a common commitment to the single currency.

In his news conference, Obama said that some of concerns over the euro, which have battered world markets in recent days, are less founded in fact than in fear.

“Some of this crisis is psychological,” he said, reaffirming that the summit ended with what he said was a strong European commitment to the euro that the markets should note.

“The European project is alive and well,” Obama said.

Obama spoke soon after the release of the October employment report, which showed that the U.S. economy added 80,000 jobs last month. While less than expected, the relatively small gains helped push down the unemployment rate to 9 percent.

A day after Congress blocked another element of his jobs plan, Obama said he would continue to push for the $447 billion measure, despite firm Republican opposition. Noting that the European debt crisis is undermining the American recovery, Obama said the United States would “do its part to support our European partner.”

“The most important thing we can do to support world economic growth is to get our own economy growing faster,” he said.

As he has campaigned for his jobs plans in the past month, highlighting Republican recalcitrance in a number of appearances around the country, Obama has seen his approval rating jump in some recent polls.

Asked his view of the coming campaign season given the poor employment numbers, Obama said, “The least of my concerns is the politics of a year from now.”

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.
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