Team Obama - Brown Takes On The G20

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Both President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leaders of the two nations most responsible for sparking the global downturn, are seeking infusions of capital from China and Germany to get the world's economy rolling.

(The two leaders met Wednesday morning at Brown's official residence in London - Mr. Obama's first appointment on the first full day of his trip to Europe.)

They want the nations with balance of payments surpluses to cut taxes, spend more, and lend money to the International Monetary Fund. President Obama says he's done his part with the infusion of several billion dollars of stimulus money into the U.S. economy.

China and Russia, however, are more interested in global finance reforms — such as replacing the dollar with a new global currency. European nations, meanwhile, (most notably Germany and France) are not at all convinced that spending more money on stimulus packages will do anything to fix the economy.

China also wants promises from President Obama that U.S. inflation will not reduce the value of Beijing's $700 billion investment in U.S. Treasury obligations.

Germany is looking for a global regulatory body to review financial instruments and to act as an "early warning" council to ensure the crisis does not recur.

The challenge for President Obama is to ride his wave of popularity over growing international concern about his handling of the U.S. economy and its impact on global markets.

President Obama is still extremely popular, 73 days into his first term. That's not the case for Gordon Brown, host of the G20 Summit.

As the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, many in his country hold Brown largely responsible for allowing the financial community to go under-regulated for too long.

Reflecting British criticism of the Prime Minister, Lord Matthew Oakeshott, a politician from the Liberal Democrat party, told the House of Lords said last week: "Our Prime Minister's call for the G20 to regulate banks and tax havens will be sheer hypocrisy unless he cleans out our own stinking stables."

Both Washington and London will need to make firm commitments on global oversight, the dollar's viability and trade issues to win broad support for further stimulus programs. A U.K.-U.S. alliance is also needed to achieve a dramatic increase in IMF funding.

President Obama, who recent polls suggest is one of the most popular leaders in the world, now must cement the alliance with his widely unpopular British counterpart.

After what was perceived in London as a lukewarm reception for Brown when he visited Washington several weeks ago, President Obama will also need to convince the prime minister to support his new strategy in Afghanistan by increasing the British troop presence.

The April 3 – 4 NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, following the G20 meeting, has support in principle from member states for strengthening NATO's role in Afghanistan. But few nations, other than Britain, have been willing to commit to more boots on the ground.

President Obama may have offended the Anglo-American alliance by replacing the bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office with one of Abe Lincoln, so he might be advised to carry a copy of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" on this trip. He needs to convince the G20, and NATO allies, that is not just the worst of times.

This story was filed by CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk at the United Nations.
  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.