By MOLLY HUNTER and MATT LAROTONDA
WASHINGTON — There were a couple new faces in town at the annual Group of Eight summit, and a couple new allies for President Obama, who has been urging Europeans to follow America’s lead. And with 4 million jobs created in the United States in last 26 months, the Europeans are listening.
The global economy dominated the day, and while no bold, specific steps were laid out, a broad, shared path was embraced by the G-8 leaders today at Camp David.
The president continues to argue that in the middle of the economic crisis, the U.S. went one way, spending on stimulus for growth, and the Europeans went the other, with austerity and spending cuts.
And while Obama admits that Europe “is more complicated,” he shamelessly touted America’s growth. Through the recession “economic growth [gave] us more room to take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit and debt,” he said.
Without mentioning austerity once, he set a clear tone in the morning. Growth and jobs must be the G-8′s top priority and everyone “must take steps to boost confidence and growth in Europe,” he said.
“A stable, growing European economy is in everybody’s best interests — including America’s,” Obama said.
“If a company is forced to cut back in Paris or Madrid, that might mean less business for manufacturers in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee,” he said, adding that in turn, that could affect the American families and communities dependent on that business.
Obama said there had been genuine progress during the two-day summit, and said tonight that “there’s now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now.”
Today’s focus on the Eurozone comes on the heels of elections in France and Greece that ushered in new leaders who are focused on growth, a blatant rejection of the austerity model championed by Germany.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that growth and deficit-cutting were not mutually exclusive, but reinforced each other. She added that everyone seemed to agree.
“That is great progress,” she said.
The joint Camp David Declaration reflected the mission of growth but included a very stern warning.
“Our imperative is to promote growth and jobs,” the G-8 statement read. “The global economic recovery shows signs of promise, but significant headwinds persist.”
And both America and Europe feel those headwinds. The G-8 leaders also agreed that they support Greece staying in the Eurozone — a statement that underlines just how large the damage could be to the global system if Greece left. Large and unpredictable. Last week, many analysts argued that a Greek departure was imminent and last Thursday, Fitch ratings agency dropped Greece to the lowest possible grade for a country not in default.
After his brief speech, President Obama headed into a bilateral meeting with Merkel before catching the overtime shootout of the Champions League final game between Chelsea vand Bayern Munich. Merkel was again in the spotlight when Bayern Munich lost, but after a long day, the other leaders offered sympathy — in several different languages.