Obama Urges Joint Action On Economy
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. It was a full day for President Obama, in London for tomorrow's G20 economic summit. There were meetings with the presidents of Russia and China, a sit-down with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, a news conference where the president called for a strong response to the global economic crisis. And at day's end, Buckingham Palace to meet the queen. NPR's Don Gonyea had to keep up with all of this and he has this report from London.
DON GONYEA: President Obama is in the spotlight at every turn as he attends his first big summit since taking office. And his arrival in London was an event to take note of, as did Britain's prime minister this morning.
Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (Great Britain): The whole of the United Kingdom welcomes President Obama and the first lady on your first official visit to our country. President Obama, you've given renewed hope not only to the citizens of the United States of America but to all citizens in all parts of the world.
GONYEA: But that doesn't mean President Obama's task at the G20 summit will be any easier. Crafting a united but still aggressive approach to economic recovery by these very different nations is a complicated undertaking. When the president joined Brown for a news conference, the first question was a pointed one.
Unidentified Man: The prime minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany blame both Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right, and isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?
GONYEA: President Obama responded that the U.S. is accountable because of an inadequate regulatory system, but he added that America isn't the only one to blame.
President BARACK OBAMA: I think what is also true is that here in Great Britain, in continental Europe, around the world we were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and the highly integrated global capital markets that had emerged.
GONYEA: Mr. Obama was asked about some of the sharp disagreements between the U.S. and Europe, specifically Germany and France, which have been very cool to the idea of huge government stimulus programs to boost economies. The president argued that the differences are relatively small, mainly over the size and shape of such a stimulus. He stressed that he is here to listen but also that the G20 must choose to lead. Later in the morning came the president's first meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. In recent years, U.S.-Russian relations have taken on a new chill. President Obama addressed that.
Pres. OBAMA: As I said in the past, I think that for the last several years the relationship between our two countries has been allowed to drift. And what I believe we've begun today is a very constructive dialogue that will allow us to work on issues of mutual interest, like the reduction of nuclear weapons.
GONYEA: President Medvedev spoke through an interpreter.
President DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russia): (Through translator) After this meeting I'm more optimistic about the successful development of our relations and would like to thank President Obama for this opportunity.
GONYEA: The two leaders agreed to begin a new round of negotiations to reduce the number of nuclear warheads with the goal of drafting a treaty by year's end. By early evening, President Obama and the first lady were at Buckingham Palace.
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GONYEA: This was not a state visit, so it had none of the big ceremonial pomp of some presidential visits. Instead it was a reception hosted by the queen for all of the heads of state in town for the summit. There was one gift -President Obama presented the queen with an iPod loaded with songs by American songwriter Richard Rodgers. It was all stark contrast to what was happening outside in parts of London today. Thousands staged protests, some turned violent as demonstrators marched on British banks.
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GONYEA: Windows were smashed at the Royal Bank of Scotland. There were clashes with police elsewhere in the city as well. It should be noted, though, that the anger was not directed at President Obama, who polls show to be overwhelmingly popular across Europe. But it is anger nonetheless, rooted in the economic crisis that has put people on edge, damaging confidence in institutions like the G20 and its ability to deal with the crisis.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, London.
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