But just moments later, he signaled that he wasn’t completely thrilled with the details of the document that was signed by the leaders of the world’s largest economies and suggested he won’t leave London with everything he wanted out of his first major economic summit.
“I think we did OK,” Obama said. “The document that has been produced as well as the concrete actions that will follow reflect a range of our priorities. ... Overall, I’m pleased.”
The world leaders called for $1.1 trillion in loans and financial guarantees for poor countries largely through the International Monetary fund. The nations agreed to set up a new global Financial Stability Board to serve as a sort of financial early warning system of systemic crisis in the future.
And the nations pledged to extend regulations to cover hedge funds for the first time and take action global tax havens such as Switzerland and offshore Caribbean nations. “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the agreement said.
But the document appeared to stop short of Obama’s wish that individual European countries would pump money into their own economies, just as Obama did with a $787 billion stimulus package earlier this year. That was a key point of contention between the United States and nations like Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which resisted added economic stimulus at home.
The United States had resisted a more serious effort at global financial regulation, one that could reach directly into Wall Street companies. And the final agreement suggested that the financial regulatory body would be more of a watchdog for future problems than an intrusive new regulator of global commerce.
In the end, the main success touted both by Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the simple fact of the meeting itself. Both men alluded to the global economic infighting that followed the epic stock market crash of 1929 and said that world leaders had responded much more quickly and effectively than their precursors during the Great Depression.
But perhaps most importantly, the nations agreed to resist impulses that could close their borders to free trade, the kind of protectionist impulses that many economists say worsened the aftermath of the crash of 1929.
One of the more controversial proposals in the United States will be efforts to reign in CEO pay — the agreement calls for measures to “support sustainable compensation schemes.” Obama said that he didn’t want end the path to prosperity on Wall Street: “In America at least, people don't resent the rich; they want to be rich. And that’s good.”
A fatigued-looking president — who sneezed twice while facing the world’s press — said he has been fighting a cold all week. His remarks came after a whirlwind day of diplomatic and economic negotiations, and the sheer number of foreign leaders on his schedule for one on one consultations hinted at the way the world is changing. Gone are the post-World War II days in which the United States and America ruled over the world, Obama said, calling that “a good thing.” But he also seemed to pine for an era in which global diplomacy didn’t involve so many meetings.
“Well, if it's just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, you know, that's an easier negotiation,” Obama said to audience laughter. “But that's not the world we live in. And it shouldn't be the world that we live in.”