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US plays down Bush-Sarkozy Summit

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-10

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso are due to meet US President Bush at Camp David to try to hard-sell a comprehensive reappraisal of the global financial system.

US President George W. Bush and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy may be headed for a Camp David clash on Saturday over how and when to overhaul global economic rules to avert future meltdowns.
Sarkozy, joined by European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, heads to the storied US presidential retreat armed with a mandate from his EU colleagues to push for a top-to-bottom revamp of the world's financial system.
But the White House has preemptively declared that the talks will yield no new policy proposals, and no date or location for a world leaders summit that the French leader hopes will generate sweeping reforms.
"I don't believe that tomorrow night's meeting will have any new policy announcements or any decision on a date or a location for that meeting -- although everybody is working towards that," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
US officials say Washington and Brussels must secure advice and support from other major economies and that the incredibly complicated agenda for any summit must be worked out before the meeting is called.
"There's a lot of things to work through and we'll find a date; that won't be -- that's the least of our worries, is finding a date," said Perino, who poured cold water on Sarkozy's call for a wholly new economic framework.
Asked whether Bush would support that, Perino replied: "I don't know. I think that what we'll do is accept for consideration all recommendations and all good ideas that come to us."
Sarkozy on Thursday renewed his call for a wide-ranging summit "before the end of the year" -- something the White House now supports -- while warning that reforms cannot wait for Bush's successor to take office in January.
"If we wait for the new president, that means that in the best of circumstances we would meet, say, in the spring. I think that's far too late," he said at the end of a two-day EU summit.
"That would be a very bad idea. So Europe wants the summit before the end of the year. Europe wants it, Europe asks for it, and Europe will get it," said Sarkozy, who holds the rotating European Union presidency.
But on Friday Bush made clear that financial reforms in the United States -- without which changes overseas would likely be doomed -- will not come before he hands over the keys to the White House in January.
"Our 21st century global economy continues to be regulated by laws written in the 20th century," the US president said in a speech 18 days before the US election.
Citing US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's overhaul proposal and "good suggestions" from others, Bush declared: "Enacting these ideas into law must be a top priority for the next president and the next Congress."
Sarkozy on Thursday said he hoped to discuss the future role of the International Monetary Fund, sweeping currency reforms, and finance industry bonuses he blamed for fuelling unnecessary risk-taking.
"We do not have the right to miss this opportunity for reconstructing our system of finance in the 21st century," Sarkozy said Thursday after the 27 EU leaders endorsed calls for a global financial system overhaul.
"We have a mandate now to discuss this with the president of the United States."
But Perino kept her descriptions of the meeting low-key: "They will arrive.  They'll have a meeting. Then they will go into a dinner and have just a short amount of time right after the dinner to be able to continue talking."
"And then they will head back to Europe."

Date created : 2008-10-17