By Amie Parnes - 05/20/12 12:26 AM EDT
CAMP DAVID, Md. – President Obama expressed confidence Saturday that there’s an “emerging consensus” from the world’s most industrialized nations that more must be done to promote growth and job creation to help Europe’s sputtering economy.
Wrapping up a two-day G8 summit at the presidential retreat in Maryland, Obama together with the other leaders, urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to ease her push for austerity and endorse a pro-growth agenda that would help Europe’s economy accelerate.
“All the leaders here today agreed growth and jobs must be our top priority,” Obama said.
A central question facing Europe is whether Greece will be able to retain its membership in the European Union and keep the euro as its currency.
Greece’s departure from the eurozone would throw Europe into uncharted territory, which in turn would inject huge amounts of uncertainty into global financial markets — the last thing the still-struggling U.S. recovery needs.
Obama emphasized the importance of a “strong and cohesive” Eurozone and reaffirmed the leaders’ interest in Greece staying a part of the economic group while respecting its commitments.
In his brief remarks, the president sought to explain why Europe’s current economic crisis could hurt the U.S. and why more needs to be done to help the countries rebuild.
“Europe is our largest economic partner,” Obama said, standing at a small lectern outside his presidential cabin, his sleeves rolled. “Put simply, if a company is forced to cut back in Paris or Madrid that might mean less business for manufacturers in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee and that might mean a tougher time for families who depend on that business.
“That’s why even as we confronted our own economic challenges over the past two years, we’ve collaborated closely with our European allies and partners as they’ve confronted theirs,” Obama said.
But Obama — who is in reelection mode with six months to go in the presidential campaign — said Europe can emulate what the U.S. has done, embracing a growth agenda with an eye toward cutting deficits in the future.
Obama said because of his administration’s work, putting in place some of the strongest financial reforms since the Great Depression “we’ve worked to get our own fiscal house in order in a responsible way."
“Through it all even as we’ve worked to stabilize the financial sector and bring down our deficits and debt over the longer term, we stayed focused on growing the economy and creating jobs in the immediate term,” Obama said.
But he added a caveat, “Of course we still have a lot of work to do. Too many of our people are still looking for jobs that pay the bills are deficits are still too high.”
Obama acknowledged that Europe’s situation is “more complicated.” But he expressed confidence that Europe has taken “significant steps” to manage the crisis.
"There's now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now in the context of these fiscal and structural reforms,” he said. “That consensus for progress was strengthened at Camp David.”