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NORTHWEST NEWS

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McMenamins
Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Dan Lothian CNN

LOS CABOS, Mexico (CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed the results of the Greek election as he prepared to join other world leaders at a summit aimed at boosting a sluggish global economic recovery.

Officially, the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, will largely focus on one of the primary causes of the recovery's lethargy -- the threat of a European currency collapse that would roil the already fragile economies of most of the 17 countries that use the euro.

"The world is concerned about the slowing of growth that has taken place," Obama said Monday before the start of the summit, following one-on-one-talks with host President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. " A lot of attention has been centered on Europe. Now is the time, as we've discussed, to make sure that all of us join to do what's necessary to stabilize the world financial system, to avoid protectionism, to ensure that we are working hand-in-hand to both grow the economy and create jobs while taking a responsible approach long term and medium term towards our fiscal structures."

However, the summit was not expected to produce concrete commitments, and European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso made clear Monday that European nations were not there to be lectured on how to proceed.

"This crisis was not originated in Europe. .... This crisis was originated in North America," Barroso said. "And many of our financial sector were contaminated by -- how can I put it -- unorthodox practice from some sectors of the financial market. But we are not putting the blame on our partners. What we are saying is let's work together when we have a global problem like the one we have today. "

He called for the G-20 leaders to back steps the European Union is taking, such as possible further bailouts of struggling economies such as Greece and Spain.

"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy because the European Union is a model that we may be very proud of," Barroso said. "We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners were so open about their own difficulties."

As usual for any summit, Obama also has bilateral meetings with other leaders, including his first direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Putin recently returned to the post for a second time.

Obama and Putin began their one-on-one meeting early Monday afternoon, after Obama and host President Felipe Calderon of Mexico held that talks that included the announcement that Mexico would join the United States and eight other countries in negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership, an economic union to boost trade.

In addition to the United States, the current countries of the partnership are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

A main topic of the summit will be Sunday's elections in debt-ridden Greece, where the center-right New Democracy party won the most votes and was asked to try to form a coalition government.

The vote was widely seen as a Greek referendum on staying in the euro, and the narrow victory for New Democracy over Syriza -- a leftist party that opposes conditions that accompany an international bailout for the country -- brought initial ease to world markets roiled by the prospect of a possible European currency collapse.

After his talks Monday with Calderon, Obama expressed optimism that the new Greek government would remain committed to a solution that would keep the country in the European monetary union.

"I think the election in Greece yesterday indicates a positive prospect for not only them forming a government, but also them working constructively with their international partners in order that they can continue on the path of reform, and do so in a way that also offers the prospects for the Greek people to succeed and prosper," Obama told reporters.

A rocky election in Greece that would result in its departure from the eurozone was one of the greatest fears coming into the summit, and while that fear appears to have been averted for now, the United States still expects European leaders to lay out a plan for dealing with the effects of the distressed Greek economy.

"We expect to hear more of this in Los Cabos, showing that they are fundamentally committed to evolving the euro area in a way that makes the monetary union much stronger by virtue of having a more banking union, more fiscal union, more political union," Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard told reporters in a briefing just days before the start of the summit.

Mike Froman, Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economics, told the advance briefing that "this isn't a meeting where we expect Europeans to make decisions about Europe."

While avoiding an economic contagion is central to the G-20's formal mission, many eyes will also be trained on the bilateral meeting Obama and Putin.

Russia has recently blocked two resolutions in the U.N. Security Council targeted at putting a stop to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal attacks on civilians, deepening a divide that has darkened an otherwise resurgent relationship between the United States and its former Cold War foe.

Prior to the summit, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that the United States continues to work to get Russia to agree with its position that al-Assad must relinquish power.

"We've been working to get the Russians to come in line with, frankly, the broad international community," Rhodes said. "This is not just an issue between the United States and Russia, it's really an issue between the international community, on the one hand, that is expressing support for a real transition in Syria, and the Syrian government, which has, of course, resisted those steps.

"So we'll continue to work through that area of difference with the Russians because we believe that they can play a role, again, in pressing the Assad regime and supporting a political transition."

Obama will meet later Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then on Tuesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Obama and Hu are expected to discuss China's role in ongoing talks with Iran over its nuclear program, as well as China's role in spurring growth.

The members of the G-20 are the United States, the European Union, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, China, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Australia.

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

 

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