Video: G-20 wrestles with how best to stabilize economy

  1. Transcript of: G-20 wrestles with how best to stabilize economy

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: And now across town to NBC 's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd , traveling with the president, who's got some tough selling to do at this meeting. Hi, Chuck.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Well, good evening, Lester . You know, the debate here on the world stage about the economy mirrors the debate we're seeing in Washington right now between the two major parties, which is time to do more government spending or time for deficit reduction? Handshakes and smiles all around as President Obama and leaders of the world's major industrialized nations tackled how to stabilize a fragile but recovering global economy. But behind the scenes, debate over whether to heed the Obama administration's calls to keep spending to spur economic growth or to embrace the view backed by several European capitals , a more drastic pullback to rein in mounting debt. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner tried to play down the split.

    Secretary TIM GEITHNER: This summit must be fundamentally about growth. This will require different strategies in different countries.

    TODD: But that's become a hard sell to nations like Germany , France and Britain , nervous about the massive debt crisis in Greece .

    Mr. STUART PATRICK (Council on Foreign Relations): It's driven the European Union both to look more inwardly at its own policies...

    TODD: While not seeing eye-to-eye on deficits, the president came to these meetings with new financial overhauls of the American financial system, reforms he hopes other nations will use as a model.

    STEVE LIESMAN reporting: The US has a bit of swagger on the world stage right now when it comes to the banking reform issue because of what Congress just agreed to. On the deficit issue, I think it's losing traction.

    TODD: The president spent much of his Saturday in one-on-one meetings with key allies, including new British Prime Minister David Cameron . To emphasize the country's special relationship, the president even gave Cameron a lift on Marine One . Weather grounded Cameron 's chopper. Later, an exchange of beers to pay off a bet from the US/ England World Cup game. Turning serious on Afghanistan , while the president just this week put even more qualifiers on his July 2011 troop withdrawal deadline, the prime minister hinted patience in his country could run out before then.

    Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON: Making progress this year, putting everything we have into getting it right this year is vitally important.

    TODD: The Obama administration very nervous about those comments from Cameron , by the way. On a lighter note, we did have -- the president did find time to watch the end -- the very end of the US/ Ghana match. He was even offering a little play by play. He realized what was going on in extra time , and I'm told I will hold off, Lester , on saying what the final score was for now.

    HOLT: Yeah, don't hold off for

Image: Barack Obama, Hu Jintao
Charles Dharapak  /  AP
President Barack Obama, left, and the U.S. delegation meets with President Hu Jintao, right, and China's delegation on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Toronto on Saturday. The White House said Hu had accepted an invitation to visit the United States.
updated 6/27/2010 12:04:18 AM ET 2010-06-27T04:04:18

At odds over how to strengthen the global recovery, top world leaders found common ground on foreign policy Saturday, condemning North Korea for the alleged sinking of a South Korean warship and endorsing a five-year exit timetable for Afghanistan

In a joint statement, the leading eight industrial democracies also criticized both Iran and North Korea for continuing their nuclear march and called on both to heed existing United Nations resolutions.

The statement on the March sinking of the South Korean ship was not as strongly worded as the United States and some other countries had hoped. Russia was cited as a holdout against tougher language.

While earlier demonstrations had been nonviolent, black-clad protesters broke off from a larger crowd on Saturday, torching police cruisers and smashing windows with baseball bats and hammers. Some demonstrators hurled bottles at police.

"This isn't our Toronto and my response is anger," Mayor David Miller told CP24 television. "Every Torontonian should be outraged by this."

Economic divisions
After spending Friday debating the best response to the lingering global financial crisis, the G-8 leaders — representing the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — focused Saturday on foreign policy, where it appeared easier to reach consensus.

The Group of Eight nations concluded the group's two-day meeting at a lakeside resort about 140 miles north of Toronto with a joint statement. Leaders then immediately returned to Toronto to continue their talks as part of the Group of 20, a broader meeting that includes countries with fast-growing economies such as China, India and Brazil.

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World leaders found themselves divided on how best to keep the world economy growing after the worst recession since the 1930s. They split between calls, mainly from the U.S., for more government stimulus to keep the world from slipping back into recession, and appeals from European countries and Japan for spending cuts and even tax hikes to avoid Greece-like near defaults.

For now, the leaders have generally cooled their rhetoric and agreed that deficits must be tamed in the long term, while different countries may use different tactics to tackle the burdens of debt and deficits in the short term.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that President Barack Obama "clearly talked about the risks of debt and deficit" in the U.S.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said world leaders must work together to make sure the global recovery stays on track.

"The scars of this crisis are still with us," he said. "If the world economy is to expand at its potential, if growth is going to be sustainable in the future, then we need to act together to strengthen the recovery and finish the job of repairing the damage of the crisis."

Hu to visit Washington
The back-to-back summits came amid what Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the host, called an "enormous crisis facing us all, serious threats to the stability, economic prosperity of every country."

Leaders were also holding one-on-one sessions on the sidelines of the two summits. Obama met separately on Saturday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Korean President Lee and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Underscoring China's importance on the world stage, Obama invited Hu to Washington for a formal state visit — one of the most-coveted diplomatic invitations. Hu accepted, and White House officials said the two nations will work out a date. It would be the third state dinner of Obama's presidency, following ones for India and Mexico.

During his meeting with Korea's Lee, Obama said North Korea must be "held to account" for its alleged role in sinking the South Korean warship, and "we stand foursquare behind" Lee.

The South Korean appealed for a "strongly worded" resolution out of the U.N. Security Council. In their closing statement, the G-8 leaders cited an independent report that found that the ship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo.

"We condemn in this context the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," the statement said, though it did not explicitly blame North Korea for the attack. North Korea has denied involvement in the attack.

Japanese officials said that Russia was the only G-8 member to resist tougher language condemning North Korea more directly. An official in the Russian delegation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the leaders were meeting, said that Russia still did not consider the results of the investigation to be final and because of this, felt that condemning Pyongyang further could lead to negative consequences.

Trade talks with South Korea
Obama used the meeting with Lee to announce his administration would resume talks aimed at resolving issues blocking the completion of a free trade agreement with South Korea stalled since 2007.

Obama said his goal would be to clear up remaining differences with Seoul by the time he visits South Korea in November. "It is the right thing to do for our country. It is the right thing to do for Korea," he said.

Image: Store window smashed
Simon Hayter  /  Getty Images
Glass cascades down as anti-G20 protesters smash a store window in Toronto on Saturday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told The Associated Press that South Korean barriers to sales of U.S. autos and beef "are the outstanding issues we most want to see addressed and resolved before sending it up" to Congress. He said the administration could submit the agreement later this year "but more likely next year."

In their final statement, the G-8 countries also called Israel's current restrictions on the flow of goods to Gaza "not sustainable and must be changed."

"We welcome the decision of the Israeli Cabinet's announcement of a new policy toward Gaza as a positive development," the communique said.

And the leaders endorsed a five-year exit strategy for foreign troops from Afghanistan, a timetable first proposed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai last year. In addition, both Obama and Cameron said the war must show progress this year.

"This period that we are in is going to be critical," Obama said after he met with the British leader separately. Added Cameron: "Making progress this year, putting everything we have into getting it right this year is vitally important."

Obama, Cameron discuss BP spill
It was Obama's first private meeting with Cameron since the conservative took power last month with a coalition government, and the first since an undersea well sunk by the British oil company BP PLC began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The environmental catastrophe has strained relations between the two historic allies.

According to a Downing Street spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, the two leaders agreed BP should meet its obligations to cap the leak, clean up the damage and pay legitimate compensation claims.

The spokesman said Obama and Cameron also agreed that it was in the interest of both countries that BP remain "strong and stable." BP has lost more than $100 billion in market value since its deep-water drilling platform blew up.

After Obama met with Hu, both the U.S. president and the Chinese leader talked of improving relations between their two countries. "Real progress has been made in this relationship," Hu said through a translator.

Economic issues were expected to be more prominent at the larger G-20 meeting, which started Saturday evening with a dinner.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Security tight for G-20 summit

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  1. Police in Toronto, Canada, arrest a woman on Sunday, June 27, outside a building where others detained during the G-20 summit were being held. (Warren Toda / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Police speed off in an unmarked van after a "snatch and Grab" arrest of a protestor in Toronto on Sunday. (Jemal Countess / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Protesters run from police who were surging with shields and clubs during the G-20 summit on Saturday in Toronto. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Protesters stage a sit-in in front of riot police during a demonstration in Toronto on Saturday. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protestors burn a police car in Toronto on Saturday during demonstrations as the G-20 Summit gets underway. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Riot police watch as two police vehicles set on fire by anarchist demonstrators burn in the midst of protests on the streets of downtown Toronto, during the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26. (Jill Kitchener / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Police officers clash with protesters during a demonstration of the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Protesters and police clash during a march against the G-8 and the G-20 summits in Toronto, Canada, on Friday, June 25. The G-8 summit is Friday and Saturday in Huntsville, Ontario, about two hours' drive north of Toronto. The G-20 summit is Saturday and Sunday in Toronto. (Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Police officers use their bicycles to control demonstrators during a protest ahead of the G-8 and G-20 summits, in downtown Toronto on Friday. (Mark Blinch / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A woman prepares a prop coffin before a rally ahead the G-8 and G-20 summits on Friday. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Police and protesters clash in downtown Toronto on Friday. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. President Barack Obama is greeted by officials upon his arrival in Toronto on Friday. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer salutes as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife, Svetlana, disembark at Toronto's airport Friday. (Dmitry Astakhov / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A family crosses a largely empty street in downtown Toronto on Friday. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The helicopter in center carries British Prime Minister David Cameron after his arrival in Toronto on Thursday for the summits. (Justin Lane / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. City of Toronto workers clear rocks from gardens in a park close to the security zone around the G-20 site on Friday to prevent protesters from using them. (Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Police officers stand with riot gear as demonstrators move through the streets of Toronto on Thursday, protesting for indigenous people's rights and against the upcoming summits. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Protester Rachelle Sauve yells during a march through the streets of Toronto for indigenous people's rights on Thursday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A police officer patrols a security fence in downtown Toronto that walls off an area where the G-20 summit will be held. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Protesters march from the Ontario legislature building in Toronto. (Jacques Boissinot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A police officer stands by items removed from a car they seized near the intersection of Scott Street and Esplanade in Toronto. The driver was arrested, but police said the incident wasn't related to the G-20 summit. Also in the car were gas cans, a chainsaw and a crossbow. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Canadian police arrest the driver of a car laden with five gas cans, a chainsaw and a home-made crossbow close to the Toronto center where G-20 leaders will meet. (Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. World Vision activists dressed as "pregnant with promises" G-8 leaders demonstrate in Toronto. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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