SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico – President Barack Obama expressed confidence Tuesday that European leaders will act aggressively to boost growth in their countries and contain a crisis that threatens to slow the U.S. economy and imperil his chances of retaining the White House.
“What I’ve heard from European leaders is they understand the stakes, they understand why it’s important for them to take bold and decisive action, and I’m confident they can meet those tests,” Obama said at a news conference at the close of the two-day summit that was overshadowed by fears about Europe’s ability to contain the crisis.
Brief as the two-day summit was in the sunny resort town on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, it was marked with foreign policy challenges for Obama, who increasingly has cited the turbulence in Europe as a drag on the U.S. economy.
Obama’s re-election is likely tied to how well voters believe he’s handling the economy. He’s dispatched officials to Europe to cajole leaders there into pursuing a fix broader than the belt-tightening measures that have caused angry voters to oust leaders in several countries.
Obama – who spent much of the day behind closed doors, meeting with his European counterparts and other leaders of the Group of 20 top economies – downplayed a suggestion that Europe’s failure to stem the crisis could affect his re-election in November, saying the U.S. economic recovery was a bigger concern.
“If we take the right policy steps, do the right thing, the politics will follow,” he said.
The Group of 20 gathering – which is likely the last foreign trip for Obama before the Nov. 6 election – also featured a tense tete-a-tete with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has rejected U.S. pressure to aid in the ouster of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
Syria was also on the table during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who like Putin has rejected U.S. efforts to convince Assad to leave.
Obama acknowledged he hadn’t changed either leader’s stance.
“We had intensive conversations,” he said. “I don’t think it would be fair to say they are there yet, but I’m going to keep making the argument.”