Thursday, April 2, 2009

Transcript: President Obama News Conference at G-20 Summit

The complete transcript:

All right. Chuck Todd? Chuck?

QUESTION: What concrete items that you got out of this G-20 can you tell the American people back home who are hurting, the family struggling, seeing their retirement go down, or worrying about losing their job, what happened here today that helps that family back home in -- in the heartland?

OBAMA: Well, as I said before, we’ve got a global economy. And if we’re taking actions in isolation in the United States but those actions are contradicted overseas, then we’re only going to be halfway effective, maybe not even half.

You’ve seen, for example, a drastic decline in U.S. exports over the last several months. You look at a company like Caterpillar, in my home state of Illinois, which up until last year was doing extraordinarily well. In fact, export growth was what had sustained it even after the recession had begun.

As a consequence of the world recession, as a consequence of the contagion from the financial markets debilitating economies elsewhere, Caterpillar is now in very bad shape.

So if we want to get Caterpillar back on its feet, if we want to get all those export companies back on their feet so that they are hiring, putting people back to work, putting money in people’s pockets, we’ve got to make sure that the global economy as a whole is successful.

And this document, which affirms the need for all countries to take fiscal responses that increase demand, that encourages the openness of markets, those are all going to be helpful in us being able to fix what ails the economy back home.

All right. You know, let me -- let me mix in a -- Justin Webb, BBC. Where’s Justin? There he is. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in the -- the spirit of openness (OFF- MIKE)

OBAMA: Why don’t you get a microphone, so -- see, everybody’s complaining. I’m sure that’s all your fellow British journalists.


QUESTION: They’re extraordinarily well behaved, Mr. President. In the spirit of openness with which you say you’re going to run your administration, could you give us an insight into an area or areas where you came to London wanting something and didn’t get it, where you compromised, where you gave something away to achieve the wider breakthrough agreement?

OBAMA: Well, I think that, if you look at, you know, the language of the document, there are probably some areas where it wasn’t so much of a sacrifice as it might not have been our number-one priority, but it became clear that it was very important to certain other actors.

I’d rather not specify what those precise items would be, because this is a collective document. But there’s no doubt that, you know, each country has its own quirks and own particular issues that a leader may decide is really, really important, something that is non- negotiable for them.

OBAMA: And what we tried to do as much as possible was to accommodate those issues in a way that didn’t -- did not hamper the effectiveness of the overall document to address what I think are the core issues related to this crisis.

Now, keep in mind, I think that this kind of coordination really is historic. I said in the meeting that if you had imagined ten years ago or 20 years ago or 30 years ago that you’d have the leaders of Germany, France, China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, a president of the United States named Obama, former adversaries, in some cases, former mortal enemies negotiating this swiftly on behalf of fixing the global economy, you would have said that’s crazy. And yet it was happening, and it happened with relatively little -- relatively few hiccups. And I think that’s a testimony to the great work that Gordon Brown did and his team in organizing the summit, the collective work of our teams in doing some good preparation, some good groundwork. So I’m very proud of what’s been done. This alone is not enough. And, obviously, the actions that each of us take in our individual countries are still absolutely vital. So we have a set of principles, for example, around dealing with systemic risk that I think will be very important in preventing the kinds of financial crisis that we’ve seen. That does not entirely solve the problem of toxic assets that are still in U.S. banks and certain British banks and certain European banks. And how each individual nation acts to deal with that is still going to be vitally important. How well we execute the respective stimulus programs around the world is going to be very important. The quicker they are, the more effective they are at actually boosting demand, the more all of us will benefit. The more encumbered they are by bureaucracy, mismanagement, and corruption, that will hamper our development efforts as a whole. So this is not a panacea, but it is a critical step, and I think it lays the foundation so that should the actions that we’ve taken individually and collectively so far not succeed in boosting global demand and growth, should you continue to see a freezing of credit or a hemorrhaging of jobs around the world, I think we’ve created a good foundation for this leadership to come back together again and take additional steps until we get it right. OK. Michael Sheerer (ph)? Where’s Michael?