Video: Obama, Brown to discuss economy

updated 3/3/2009 2:35:43 PM ET 2009-03-03T19:35:43

Carrying on tradition, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday hailed the "special relationship" between their countries and praised each other for a shared commitment to fixing the international economic crisis.

"Great Britain is one of our closest, strongest allies," Obama said Tuesday in between a private White House session with Brown and their private working lunch at the White House. "There is a link, a bond there, that will not break."

Brown came looking for a boost to his political fortunes by meeting Obama to discuss the global economic crisis. In hard political times at home, Brown hopes to benefit from Britons' high regard for the American president and to demonstrate British leadership at a time of economic uncertainty.

He is the first European leader to visit Obama. Obama said the US-Britain relationship is important to the American people, too.

Obama thanked British forces for their enormous sacrifices in Afghanistan. As for the war in Iraq, Obama said: "Whether you were for or against the war here in the United States, the recognition of Great Britain's friendship and standing tall with us during that period will never be forgotten."

Brown, in turn, lauded Obama for "his leadership of his country and the inspiration he's giving the world at this very difficult time."

Brown was laying the groundwork for a G-20 economic summit of advanced and developing nations meeting in London next month. The summit, which Brown is chairing, is critical for improving global economic confidence as well as Brown's political prospects.

Brown was delivering a tough economic message for the White House and lawmakers, whom he will address Wednesday. He is urging the United States to avoid protectionism at a time that it has populist appeal. That theme is likely to loom large at the London summit.

At the White House, Obama and Brown were also discussing the war in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, global warming and other topics.

Both men spoke of pushing forward on a coordinated international effort to stimulate economies and shore up financial systems.

When Obama promised that the American people that they will emerge "more prosperous, more unified, and I think more protected from systemic risk having learned these lessons" of the rippling economic mess, Brown was right there to say, "I think President Obama's absolutely right."

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"I think the history books will record that what he has done in his first nearly 50 days of office has been momentous in setting the means by which we can see the economic recovery happening," Brown said of Obama.

Brown has been falling significantly behind the conservative opposition in British opinion polls. Supporters hope an appearance with Obama and a leading role in next month's economic summit will change his fortunes. After showing a sometimes frosty front with President George W. Bush, Brown hopes to prove ties to London are as crucial to the United States as developing relations with China and Japan.

But in tackling the protectionism issue, the British leader seeks to present himself as a plain-speaking friend, not reluctant to question his trans-Atlantic ally like predecessor Tony Blair, whom critics dubbed Bush's poodle.

Writing in London's Sunday Times during the weekend, Brown said he wanted to reach agreement with Obama on a global pact for the summit. He said all nations should agree to inject cash into their economies, sign up to universal banking reforms and back an overhaul of international institutions.

"President Obama and I will discuss this week a global new deal, whose impact can stretch from the villages of Africa to reforming the financial institutions of London and New York — and giving security to the hardworking families in every country," Brown wrote.

Britain has invested billions to bail out banks and boost the country's economy, while Obama has had a $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed in the United States.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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