Obama seeks G20 unity abroad, dialogue at home

In a column published in leading international dailies, US President Barack Obama called on G20 leaders to address the economic crisis ahead of the April 2 summit. He is to give a much-awaited news conference Tuesday.


Ahead of his much-awaited news conference late Tuesday – the second since he took office Jan. 20 – US President Barack Obama issued a direct appeal for global economic cooperation, calling on leaders of the world’s major economies to take “bold, comprehensive and coordinated” measures to address the financial crisis.

In a column published in more than 30 leading newspapers across the world, Obama stressed that the United States was “ready to lead”, and he called on US allies to “join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose”.

The publication of the column comes amid mounting transatlantic tensions over the response to the economic crisis and ahead of the G20 summit in London scheduled for April 2.

The United States has been pushing its European allies to pump more money into the world economy. But at an EU summit in Brussels March 20, leaders of the 27-member bloc succeeded in reaching a consensus on a number of economic measures, including a 5 billion euro infrastructure and recovery plan, but they rejected demands for further stimulus programmes.

In his op-ed column, Obama called on leaders of the G20 nations to meet the challenge of the world’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

"Now, the leaders of the Group of 20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery but also launches a new era of economic engagement to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again," he wrote.

The G20 comprises 20 of the world’s largest economies.

After AIG, a much-awaited news conference

Obama’s column appeared in select international dailies as the US president prepares for an evening news conference to explain his administration’s economic strategy to an increasingly weary and irate domestic audience.

Public anger across the United States has been mounting over the payment of $165 million in bonuses to executives at AIG (American International Group) after the insurance giant received billions of dollars in taxpayer's bailout money.

Earlier Tuesday, AIG made the startling announcement that 15 out of 20 of its bonus recipients would be returning their bonuses, a reimbursement of $50 million.

But AIG – and the US administration – has little control over bonus payments made to non-US citizens.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill to levy a 90% tax on big bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers. The bill has still to pass the Senate.

Public ire over the past few weeks has been particularly targeted at Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner over the AIG bonus issue, with some Republicans calling for Geithner’s resignation.

Obama has consistently defended his embattled Treasury secretary, who testified before Congress Tuesday along with Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke.

Tuesday's press conference, which will be broadcast live across the nation, will be carefully monitored in light of the recent economic upheavals. His address is likely to focus on the domestic situation – especially the US housing and financial sectors.

Analysts say the new president – who still enjoys widespread popularity – will attempt to establish a bond, or at the very least, a dialogue with the American people.

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