In his first presidential turn on the world stage, President Obama this week met with other world leaders in London and urged them to “pick up the pace” of efforts to stimulate the global economy. Attending the G-20 economic summit, Obama acknowledged the U.S. role in the meltdown, including “a regulatory system that was inadequate.” But he said similar mistakes were made throughout Europe. “I am less interested in identifying blame than in fixing the problem,” he said. But he ran into resistance, especially from France and Germany over his call for greater public spending to stimulate European economies.
Obama held private talks with world leaders, including his first meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, whom Obama agreed to meet later this year in China, and with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, whom Obama pledged to meet in Moscow in July. In a joint statement, the U.S. and Russian leaders acknowledged “differences,” but said they would work to reduce nuclear stockpiles. They also urged Iran to “address the international community’s concerns” about its nuclear program.
Germany and France “have a point,” said The Boston Globe in an editorial. As social welfare states, they already pump a lot of their revenue into their economies, and their fear of inflation fueled by massive deficit spending is justified. Still, Obama should “take advantage of his international popularity” to keep pushing for a “global consensus” that is desperately needed to end the downward economic spiral.
Obama may be discovering that his popularity can take him only so far, said Christi Parsons in the Los Angeles Times. Many world leaders have been emboldened to “brush off” Obama’s entreaties, in part because they blame the U.S. for the current mess and in part because they disagree with Obama’s contention that we can spend our way out of it.
So why is he wasting his time at the G-20 summit? said Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Despite all the fanfare, these gabfests never produce real negotiation or policymaking—they’re mostly about “dithering and dissembling.” In fact, they may actually do more harm than good, creating hope of tangible progress that is inevitably dashed.