WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in an interview published on Sunday that leaders of the G20 major global economies should send “a strong message of unity” on confronting the world financial crisis when they meet this week.
The U.S. leader, in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, also said he saw signs of improvement in the slumping world economies, including areas of the American housing market where the crisis began.
“We’re seeing glimmers of stabilization in the economies,” he said in the interview conducted on Friday. “Here in the United States for example, you’re starting to see pockets of stabilization in the housing market.”
Obama told the Financial Times that his objective for the G20 summit was to get the leaders to take a “robust approach to stimulus,” deal with toxic assets in the financial system and agree on regulatory reform to keep such a crisis from occurring again.
“The most important task for all of us is to deliver a strong message of unity in the face of crisis,” Obama said.
Obama, who leaves on Tuesday for his first extended trip abroad since becoming president, played down differences with European leaders over the need for more stimulus. He said he agreed the leading economies needed to build a new financial regulatory structure and coordinate on fiscal stimulus.
“The press has tended to frame this as an ‘either/or’ approach,” Obama said. “I have consistently argued that what is needed is a ‘both/and’ approach. We need stimulus and we need regulation. We need to deal with the problems right in front of us and we also need to make sure we are taking steps to prevent these types of breakdown from happening again.”
Obama said regulatory reform would include discussing what to do about offshore tax havens, which he said were an issue because it was important to ensure everyone was playing by the same rules.
“We don’t want people to be able to game the system or circumvent regulated capital markets,” he said, adding it was important to make “sure our regulations are targeting not just banks but any institution that could pose a potential systemic risk to the system.”
Obama suggested leaders at the G20 summit in London might stop short of promising to continue their stimulus spending measures into 2010. The International Monetary Fund has urged the countries to continue stimulus efforts.
“There is legitimate concern that most countries already having initiated significant stimulus packages that we need to (first) see how they work,” he said.
Obama called for the G20 leaders to take “serious steps” to address toxic assets on their domestic banks’ balance sheets, but he acknowledged that a backlash against spending in the United States could make it difficult for him to obtain additional funding for banks.
“In all countries there is an understandable tension between the steps that are needed to kick-start the economy and the fact that many of these steps are very expensive and taxpayers have a healthy skepticism about spending too much of their money, particularly when it is perceived that some of the money is being spent not on them but on others who they perceive may have helped precipitate the crisis,” Obama said.
Editing by Chris Wilson