Transcript: Obama, Brown News Conference

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama during a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London Wednesday April 1, 2009. (AP Photo/ Anthony Devlin, pool)
Below is the transcript, as released by the White House, of a joint press conference between President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, April 1, 2009, in London.

PRIME MINISTER BROWN: The whole of the United Kingdom welcomes President Obama and the First Lady on your first official visit to our country. President Obama, you have given renewed hope not only to the citizens of the United States of America, but to all citizens in all part of the world. And I want to thank you for your leadership, your vision and your courage, which you've already shown in your presidency, and congratulate you on the dynamism, the energy and, indeed, the achievements that you have been responsible for.

Your first 70 days in office have changed America, and you've changed America's relationship with the world. So I thank you for coming to our country and I hope you will enjoy your visit with us.

Today we are renewing our special relationship for new times. Ours is not an alliance of convenience; it is a partnership of purpose. It's a partnership that at times of challenge is resilient and at times of change is constant.

President Obama and I are agreed about the significance of this week's G20 meeting, that the world is coming together to act in the face of unprecedented global financial times. Our first duty is to those who are suffering most -- the people anxious about their mortgages, their jobs and their family's future. For them, the pain of recession is all too real. But let us not forget that in 1929, when the Wall Street crash happened and led to recession, it was not until 1945 that the world came together to reshape the world economy. Then it took more than 15 years.

Today, within months of this financial crisis, we are coming together to solve the common problems we face, we are cooperating to shorten the recession, and we are working together to protect and save jobs. The truth is that today's global problems require global solutions. And at this week's summit, where leaders representing 85 percent of the world's economy are gathering together, this summit cannot simply agree to the lowest common denominator. We must stand united in our determination to do whatever is necessary.

This is an unprecedented financial crisis. People have lost their homes, their jobs, and in some cases, their hope. And President Obama and I are agreed today that the actions we take are global solutions required for global problems.

There are really five tests for the G20 summit, five tests for the world -- tests that if met, will create a new consensus for the world. The speed and scale of global economic change has overwhelmed the national system of rules and regulations. So our first test is to agree tougher and more transparent supervision of banks, hedge funds, and what is known as the global shadow banking system. We are both agreed there will be no sustainable recovery until the banks are cleaned up and a new regulatory system is put in place.

The second test is to commit to taking the action necessary to bring about a resumption of growth, push back against the global recession, and support families and businesses.

The third test is to ensure, by international economic cooperation and by strengthening our international economic institutions, we support growth in emerging markets and developing countries.

The fourth test is to reject protectionism and kick-start global trade, and I suggest that an absolute minimum of $100 billion of trade finance that is so desperately needed.

Fifth, we have an obligation to help the poorest, those most vulnerable, but least able to respond to the crisis, by meeting our Millennium Development goals and keeping our pledges on aid.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States are also embarked on a transition to becoming low-carbon economies, because the President and I share the conviction that green energy technologies will be the major driver of our future economic growth and we can create millions of green-collar jobs in the world for the future.

Now, we have some tough negotiations ahead. It will not be easy. But I know from my talks this week, and from my discussions with President Obama today, that the world does want to come together; that Britain and America working together can help make this consensus not just something that is agreed on paper, but which truly delivers for people everywhere who are worried about their jobs and their hopes and their family budgets.

Today, we, the G20 leaders, will begin our discussions. Tomorrow, we must make decisions. And that is what we will do.

We've also discussed how we rebuild Afghanistan by complementing our military action with defense, diplomacy, and development -- putting new resources into civilian support for the Afghan reconstruction.

The President and I also discussed our hopes that Iran will make the right choice and take advantage of the international community's willingness to negotiate, and how we will renew our efforts to deliver security and peace for both the Palestinians and Israel.

Mr. President, I'm honored to be working with you so closely. We share a personal friendship. I believe we can continue to work together for the common good. I repeat: The whole of the United Kingdom is delighted and privileged that you're with us today. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much, Gordon.

Good morning. I am very pleased to be in London, especially with weather of the sort we're seeing today. And I want to thank Prime Minister Brown for hosting us, for his wife taking Michelle on a tour of some wonderful projects around the city, for his leadership throughout this challenge. I have to say it's not just Gordon and Sarah that have been very hospitable -- I had a chance to see their two sons and we talked about dinosaurs a little bit -- (laughter) -- in between discussions of Afghanistan and Iran. So we've had a wonderful time.

And you're to be congratulated because you have shown extraordinary energy and leadership and initiative in laying the groundwork for this summit. All of us owe Prime Minister Brown an extraordinary debt of gratitude for his preparations in what I believe will be a historic and essential meeting of the G20 nations.

Prime Minister Brown and I had a productive discussion this morning. Both of us greatly value the special relationship between our nations. The United States and the United Kingdom have stood together through thick and thin, through war and peace, through hard times and prosperity -- and we've always emerged stronger by standing together. So I'm pleased that my first meeting overseas as President is with Gordon Brown, just as I was pleased to host him in Washington shortly after taking office. And I know that we both believe that the relationship between our two countries is more than just an alliance of interests; it's a kinship of ideals and it must be constantly renewed.

In our meeting this morning we covered a complex and wide-ranging agenda. It begins, of course, with the global economy. All of us here in London have the responsibility to act with a sense of urgency, and I think that what Prime Minister Brown spoke about, the human dimensions of this crisis -- people losing their homes, losing their businesses that they've worked so hard for, losing their health care in the United States; people around the world who were already desperate before the crisis and they find themselves even more desperate afterwards -- that's what our agenda has to begin with, and that's where it will end.

All of us here in London have the responsibility to act with a sense of urgency, and every nation that will be participating has been affected by a crisis that has cost us so much in terms of jobs, savings and the economic security of our citizens. So make no mistake, we are facing the most severe economic crisis since World War II. And the global economy is now so fundamentally interconnected that we can only meet this challenge together. We can't create jobs at home if we're not doing our part to support strong and stable markets around the world.

The United States is committed, working alongside the United Kingdom, to doing whatever it takes to stimulate growth and demand, and to ensure that a crisis like this never happens again. At home, we're moving forward aggressively on both recovery and reform. We've taken unprecedented action to create jobs and restore the flow of credit. And we've proposed a clear set of tough, new 21st-century rules of the road for all of our financial institutions. We are lifting ourselves out of this crisis and putting an end to the abuses that got us here.

I know that the G20 nations are appropriately pursuing their own approaches, and as Gordon indicated, we're not going to agree on every point. I came here to put forward our ideas, but I also came here to listen, and not to lecture. Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead. To confront a crisis that knows no borders, we have a responsibility to coordinate our actions and to focus on common ground, not on our occasional differences. If we do, I believe we can make enormous progress.

And that's why, in preparation for these meetings, I've reached out and consulted with many of the leaders who are here or will be arriving shortly.

History shows us that when nations fail to cooperate, when they turn away from one another, when they turn inward, the price for our people only grows. That's how the Great Depression deepened. That's a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat.

So in the days ahead I believe we will move forward with a sense of common purpose. We have to do what's necessary to restore growth and to pursue the reforms that can stabilize our financial system well into the future. We have to reject protectionism and accelerate our efforts to support emerging markets. And we have to put in place a structure that can sustain our cooperation in the months and years ahead.

The Prime Minister and I also covered several other areas of challenge that are fundamental to our common security and prosperity. As he mentioned, we discussed my administration's review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a review that benefitted greatly from the consultations with our allies.

The city of London, like the United States, was attacked by the al Qaeda terrorists who are still plotting in Pakistan, and we are committed to a focused effort to defeat them. And I want to repeat something that I said during our last visit together -- I want to honor the British troops and their families who are serving alongside our own on behalf of our common security.

We also discussed the progress that was made yesterday at The Hague, where more than 70 nations gathered to discuss our mutual responsibilities to partner with the Afghan people so that we can deny al Qaeda a safe haven. And in the days ahead we'll consult further with our NATO allies about training Afghan security forces, increasing our civilian support, and a regional approach that recognizes the connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Photos: Barack Obama In London
President Obama opens his first full day of meetings in London. (Photo: AP)
And just a few other points. The Prime Minister and I share a common commitment to sustain diplomacy on behalf of a secure and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and the Arab world. And we're working together to responsibly end the war in Iraq by transitioning to Iraqi responsibility. We're both committed to diplomacy with Iran that offers the Islamic republic the opportunity of a better future if it abandons its nuclear weapons ambitions.

And finally, we discussed two of the other long-term challenges that will define our times, which I will be focused on throughout my trip in Europe -- the need for global action to confront climate change and a renewed effort on behalf of nuclear nonproliferation, which I will be discussing later today with President Medvedev.

Our immediate task, however, is the critical work of confronting the economic crisis. As I've said, we've passed through an era of profound irresponsibility; now we cannot afford half-measures, and we cannot go back to the kind of risk-taking that leads to bubbles that inevitably bust.

So we have a choice: We can shape our future, or let events shape it for us. And if we want to succeed, we can't fall back on the stale debates and old divides that won't move us forward. Every single nation who's here has a stake in the other. We won't solve all our problems in the next few days, but we can make real and unprecedented progress. We have an obligation to keep it -- keep working at it until the burden on ordinary people is lifted, until we've achieved the kind of steady growth that creates jobs and advances prosperity for people everywhere.

That's the responsibility we bear; that must be the legacy of our cooperation. And I'm extraordinarily grateful to Gordon for his friendship and his leadership in mobilizing at a time of such significant moment.

PRIME MINISTER BROWN: Thank you very much. I said to Barack I was going to introduce him to my friends in the British media.


Q Prime Minister, thank you very much, indeed. Nick Robinson, BBC News. A question for you both, if I may. The Prime Minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany blame both Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right? And isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would say that if you look at the sources of this crisis, the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that had taken place in the global financial system.

I think what is also true is that here in Great Britain, in continental Europe, around the world, we were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and the highly integrated global capital markets that had emerged.

So at this point, I'm less interested in identifying blame than fixing the problem. And I think we've taken some very aggressive steps in the United States to do so -- not just responding to the immediate crisis, ensuring that banks are adequately capitalized, dealing with the enormous drop-off in demand and the contraction that's been taking place, but more importantly for the long term, making sure that we've got a set of regulations that are up to the task.

And that includes a number that will be discussed at this summit. I think there's a lot of convergence between all the parties involved about the need, for example, to focus not on the legal form that a particular financial product takes or the institution that it emerges from, but rather what's the risk involved; what's the function of this product and how do we regulate that adequately; much more effective coordination between countries so that we can anticipate some of the risks that are involved; dealing with the problem of derivatives markets and making sure that we've set up systems that can reduce some of the risk there.

So I actually think that there's enormous consensus that has emerged in terms of what we need to do now, and I'm a big believer in looking forward rather than backwards.

PRIME MINISTER BROWN: You know, I was in Brazil last week, and I think President Lula will forgive me for saying this -- he said to me, when I was leader of the trade unions, I blamed the government; when I became leader of the opposition, I blamed the government; when I became the government, I blamed Europe and America. (Laughter.)

And he recognizes, as we do, that this is a global problem. It's a global problem that requires a global solution. What essentially happened is that the speed and the pace and the scope of global financial changes -- the mobility of capital around the world -- overwhelmed system of national regulation. And if we don't accept that as the problem that we've got to solve, then we will not solve the problems this week.

This is a problem to build cross-border supervision, to actually deal with the rules globally that can govern the financial supervision of banks and markets, and to root out the bad practices that have partly existed because of the scope by which -- because of the speed by which financial markets moved and the scope that they had to cross national boundaries.

So we need global solutions to what is a global problem and I think we will agree a number of measures, as President Obama said, that will clean up the global financial system.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And just one last point I want to make, because it's relevant to this issue of responsibility versus blame. I had a professor when I was in law school who said some are to blame but all are responsible. And I think that's the best way for us to approach the problem that we have right now.

I do think that, across borders, there has been a tendency to believe that whatever the global capital markets were doing was ultimately beneficial. I am a big believer in global capital markets and their potential to provide capital to countries that might not otherwise be able to grow, the possibilities of increasing living standards in ways that we have not seen previously in world history. But what we have to understand is, is that that's going to require some sort of regulatory framework to make sure that it doesn't jump the rails. And that I think is something that we're going to be able to put together.

Jennifer Loven of AP. Where's Jennifer -- there you are.

Q Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, you come here with several signs of fairly broad challenges to American economic leadership. There's the resistance to big, new stimulus spending; there's talk of a global -- new global currency; talk of even stricter regulations than are on the table now. How do you answer that? And what do you say to the talk that there's a decline in the American model, American prominence?

And then to the Prime Minister, if I could. French President Sarkozy said he might walk out of the summit if the regulations that are on the table do not get more strict, say, on offshore tax havens and on risky financial products. Can you answer that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think if you pulled quotes from 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, from previous news reports, you might find similar contentions that America was on decline. And somehow it hasn't worked out that way, because I think that there is a vibrancy to our economic model, a durability to our political model, and a set of ideals that has sustained us through even the most difficult times.

Now, with respect to the current crisis, I think that there is no doubt that at a time when the world is fearful, that there is a strong tendency to look for somebody to blame. And I think that given our prominence in the world financial system, it's natural that questions are asked -- some of them very legitimate -- about how we have participated in global financial markets.

Having said that, I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems. I think that the separation between the various parties involved has been vastly overstated. If you look at where there has been the biggest debate, and I think that the press has fastened on this as a ongoing narrative -- this whole issue of fiscal stimulus. And the fact of the matter is, is that almost every country that's participating in this summit has engaged in fiscal stimulus. The ones that are perceived as being resistant to fiscal stimulus have done significant fiscal stimulus. There has not been a dispute about the need for government to act in the face of a rapidly contracting set of markets and very high unemployment.

Now, there have been differences in terms of how should that stimulus be shaped. There have been arguments, for example, among some European countries that because they have more of a social safety net, that some of the countercyclical measures that we took -- for example, unemployment insurance -- were less necessary for them to take. But the truth is, is that that's -- that's just arguing at the margins. The core notion that government has to take some steps to deal with a contracting global marketplace and that we should be promoting growth, that's not in dispute.

On the regulatory side, this notion that somehow there are those who are pushing for regulation and those who are resisting regulation is belied by the facts. Tim Geithner, who's sitting here today, went before Congress and proposed as aggressive a set of regulatory measures as any that have emerged among G20 members. That was before we showed up.

And in conversations that Gordon and I had with our teams, I think there's great symmetry in our belief that even as we deal with the current crisis, we've got to make sure that we're preventing future crises like this from happening again.

On the topic of emerging markets and making sure that they have the finances that they need to weather the storm, poor countries are getting help and they're not being lost in the shuffle, there is complete concurrence.

So I know that when you've got a bunch of heads of state talking, it's not visually that interesting -- (laughter) -- and it -- you know, the communiqués are written in sort of dry language, and so there's a great desire to inject some conflict and some drama into the occasion. But the truth of the matter is, is that I think there has been an extraordinary convergence and I'm absolutely confident that the United States, as -- as a peer of these other countries, will help to lead us through this very difficult time.