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Obama: G-20 summit is 'turning point' in economic recovery

LONDON - At his summit debut, President Barack Obama failed to persuade foreign counterparts to commit to fresh and lavish spending to boost economic revival. And the success he did achieve in finding common ground was as much the result of modified goals as swaying other countries to bend to U.S. priorities.

- See photos of President Barack Obama in lighter moments with G-20 world leaders, and Michelle Obama

Still, he emerged with much of what he wanted from allies on the flailing global economy. And hehelped thwart a French-backed attempt to set up an international financial regulator.

Closing out the 20-nation gathering here, Obama -- aware of the risks of over-promising to ahurting public back home -- hailed the agreement hammered out among wealthy and developingcountries while stopping well short of claiming it would reverse dismal conditions or even prevent adeeper recession.

"This is not a panacea," Obama said at a news conference where he straddled nearly every issue.

The president called the meeting a "turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery" andheralded steps agreed to by the Group of 20 leaders as both "critical" and "necessary." But, hecautioned: "Whether they're sufficient, we've got to wait and see." The new U.S. president also hasmet privately with other heads of state, from Russia, China, Great Britain and India on the sidelinesof the summit.

How has he done? "I think we did OK," he said, summing up his performance so far.

Thursday's daylong gathering of the G-20 nations pledged $1.1 trillion in loans and guarantees tostruggling countries, agreed to crack down on tax havens, large hedge funds and other riskyfinancial products, rejected protectionism that hampers foreign trade and committed to upgradingan existing financial forum to flag problems early in the global financial system. Those were allelements Obama was seeking.

And, as he hoped, the leaders also rejected a push by French and German politicians for a globalfinancial super-regulator, a proposal that had been expected to go down in defeat. The emphasis,instead, was on cooperation among nations to each choose it own way to enact "a stronger, moreglobally consistent, supervisory and regulatory framework." Overall, the outcome seemed morerobust than the one global leaders were able to muster at a first summit held last fall in response tothe financial meltdown and hosted by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush. Since that Novembermeeting, the global crisis has worsened, making the need for urgent action more plain to formerlyreluctant nations.

Still, the leaders, many wary of piling up debt, did not sign off on large new stimulus packages fortheir own countries. Obama's administration had initially pushed for such a commitment, but backedoff in recent days as European opposition solidified.

Obama claimed Thursday's collective action was a giant victory, calling the meeting historic "by anymeasure." The president said he was sure the steps would have "a concrete effect" in each nation ofcreating jobs, saving jobs, expanding economies, loosening credit and restoring confidence infinancial markets. To Americans hurting at home, he argued that working to boost the economyworldwide -- in particular by helping poorer nations -- creates export markets for U.S. goods andthe restoration and creation of crucial jobs.

"The steps that have been taken are critical to preventing us sliding into a depression," he said.

"They are bolder and more rapid than any international response that we've seen to a financial crisisin memory." He acknowledged the U.S. had to make concessions. But he begged off detailing them,saying the final communique reflected a collective voice of world leaders.

In a jam-packed news conference that drew hundreds of journalists from around the world, Obamawas both playful and wonkish, coughing and sniffling at times with a cold he said he'd been fightingall week.

Obama moved closer to his goal of decisively putting a new, listening-not-lecturing stamp on U.S.foreign policy, not only as it is conducted but as it is perceived around the globe. Citing internationalpolling showing his popularity, Obama said: "I would like to think that, with my election and theearly decisions that we've made, that you're starting to see some restoration of America's standing inthe world." Yet, Obama also found himself defending American prominence for the second time in asmany days. Just before he spoke, the summit host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, declared"the old Washington consensus is over," a reference to decades of U.S.-led dominance of the globaleconomic order.

"I do not buy into the notion that America can't lead in the world," Obama said. "America is acritical actor and leader on the world stage and that we shouldn't be embarrassed about that.But ... we exercise our leadership best when we are listening." Obama acknowledged that someparticipants during the summit made comments that seemed to blame America and Wall Street fortriggering the crisis that has spread around the world.

"It's hard to deny that some of the contagion did start on Wall Street," Obama said, asserting thatsome firms took "wild and unjustified risks" and some government regulators were "asleep at theswitch." But he said there were problems in other parts of the world as well.

While Obama argued that the document the G-20 produced included both "a strong, coordinatedresponse to growth" and "a strong, coordinated regulatory response," he said it also reflected therange of the nations' individual priorities, and he added: "It is hard for 20 heads of state to bridgeour differences."

- See photos of President Barack Obama in lighter moments with G-20 world leaders, and Michelle Obama

- See photos of the protests

- See photos of the spouses of world leaders

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