WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to work together to address currency and other imbalances in the world economy as nations struggle to recover from the global crisis.
“Too many people are still out of work, too many businesses are still having problems getting financing, and there's still too many imbalances in the world economy that are inhibiting the prospects of growth,” Obama said Monday, sitting alongside Sarkozy in the Oval Office.
France currently holds the presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized economies and the larger Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations. In his turn at the helm of the G-20, Sarkozy is looking to push for changes that would keep the global monetary system from relying so heavily on the dollar as the world's reserve currency, though he has not proposed specifics about his plans.
Sarkozy said Monday that he recognized “how important the U.S. dollar is as the world's number one currency.” He said he would work with the U.S. to reach common ground on matters of currency, commodity prices and other sensitive economic issues ahead of the G8 and G20 summits he'll host in France later this year.
The White House has not formally announced if Obama will attend the spring G8 summit, but the president will likely attend, said a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity. Obama is scheduled to host the event in 2012.
U.S. concerns over currency imbalances have focused on China. Officials contend China is keeping its currency undervalued to make its goods cheaper in the United States and American products more expensive in China.
Obama and Sarkozy's meeting came after violence against American and French citizens: six people were killed, and Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured, in a shooting rampage Saturday in Arizona, while two French hostages were killed in a failed rescue attempt in Niger after a kidnapping blamed on al-Qaida.
Sarkozy said the French people were deeply moved and saddened by the Arizona attack, and both leaders said the incident in Niger underscores the need to cooperate in combatting terrorism around the world.
“We have no choice but to go after these terrorists wherever they may be,” Sarkozy said.
Obama and Sarkozy also discussed the war in Afghanistan, Middle East peace prospects and Iran sanctions. Obama said he brought up two pressing issues in Africa: fallout over the contested election in Ivory Coast, a former French colony, and the independence referendum in south Sudan.
Obama said he is concerned about the potential for violence following the weekend referendum, but believes in the “prospect of a peaceful transition that could result in a better life for the people in both the north and the south of Sudan.”
Obama and Sarkozy spoke with reporters in the Oval Office in between their hour-long private meeting and working lunch. Michelle Obama and France's first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy also met for a private lunch Monday at the White House residence.