President Obama to meet with Sarkozy, Merkel at G-20 summit

President Obama will open two days of the Group of 20 economic summit in Cannes, France, on Thursday with a pair of bilateral meetings dealing with the European debt crisis, which is likely to dominate the event.

Obama is to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, White House officials said Monday.

Sarkozy and Merkel represent the continent’s two largest economies, and Obama will discuss with them the international response to the debt crisis in Europe, which has slowed global economic growth.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, Obama has shared with European leaders, in a series of phone calls, the U.S. experience in confronting its own fiscal crisis two years ago, administration officials said.

“We have shared back and forth some of the experiences we had during the crisis, and in particular, the need to move with overwhelming force,” Lael Brainard, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for international affairs, said during a White House briefing for reporters.

European leaders announced a plan last week to stem the debt crisis that began in Greece and threatens to spread across the continent. The plan includes creating a fund that would allow cash-strapped nations to borrow up to $1 trillion and recapitalize banks by as much as $150 billlion.

But European leaders have not said how they intend to raise the money. On Monday, White House officials declined to commit direct U.S. dollars to the effort, citing the role the International Monetary Fund could play.

“The IMF received substantially greater resources, at our behest and with our support, back in 2009,” Brainard said, “and those resources are largely available today to support Europe and other countries as they confront financial volatility and as they mount plans to restore stability in the euro area.”

Heather Conley, director of European programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that direct U.S. financial aid for Europe would be a tough sell, considering the domestic debate over the economy and Obama’s jobs proposals.

“It would be the worst message at the worst time — that we now need to bail out Europe,” Conley said.

At the summit, Obama is expected to lay out his proposed $447 billion American Jobs Act, which is stalled in Congress. He president could receive a muted reception in Europe, given his political problems and stalemate with Republicans.

Obama is scheduled to depart Washington for the summit late Wednesday. On Thursday, he is to attend a forum of the L20 — a group that deals with labor issues — and participate in the formal G-20 summit program.

After the conference ends Friday, he is to meet with Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was recently reelected, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Obama is also trying to schedule a second meeting with Sarkozy before leaving France late Friday, Rhodes said.

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