A defiant President Obama at a press conference after the conclusion of the G20 meetings in Seoul, South Korea insisted that he is politically stronger on the world stage, regardless of any evidence that American influence is waning.
The president failed to convince South Korean leaders to open their markets to American beef and cars, and he was not able to secure commitments from his fellow G20 leaders to take decisive actions to fix trade imbalances. He was likewise unable to push Chinese President Hu Jintao to any firm commitments to change policies that artificially build up the dollar so as to make it cheaper to manufacture goods in China – at the cost of American jobs.
The president defended himself, saying, “part of the reason that sometimes it seems that the United States is attracting some dissent is because we’re initiating ideas. We’re putting them forward. The easiest thing for us to do would be to take a passive role and let things just drift which wouldn’t cause any conflict.”
Continued the president, “We thought it was important for us to put forward more structure to this idea of balanced and sustained growth. That resistance is natural. It arises out of the US showing leadership and we are pushing to try to bring about changes.”
“Instead of hitting home runs, sometimes we're going to hit singles,” he said, adding, “but they’re really important singles.”
After a day of meetings with leaders of the G20 countries, President Obama said that it isn’t just Americans who are giving him an earful about the slow growth of the US economy, that his fellow world leaders have as well.
“When people talk to me about the US economy, their main concern is it is growing fast enough?,” Obama said from the Coex Center in Seoul, “I think they’re very interested in additional strategies that can be used to encourage take off in the US economy. And I describe to them some of the steps were taking and we’ll be continuing to take in order to make that happen.”
One of the biggest issues the president has been pushing at the G20 meetings is his belief that China artificially manipulates its currency to keep its goods cheap -- at the expense of US jobs.
Mr. Obama could not get the G-20 to agree to use stronger language in the joint statement released at the end of the meetings but at his press conference this afternoon he used his strongest language yet about the Chinese currency.
“It is undervalued and China spend enormous amounts of money intervening in the market to keep it undervalued,” Obama said, “My expectation is that China’s gonna make progress on this issue.”
In January Chinese President Hu will be visiting the president in Washington D,C and President Obama said it is his “hope and expectation” that by then the will “continue to see progress” on the issue. In the meantime the president said that he will continue to “closely watch the appreciation,” of China’s currency.
“It means some adjustments for China, so we understand that this not solved overnight. But it needs to be dealt with and I’m condiment it can be,” he said, “All of us need to avoid actions that perpetrate imbalances and give countries an undue advantage over one another.”
The president pushed back on accusations that the recent decision by the Fed to inject $600 billion into the economy is itself currency manipulation.
“This decision was not one designed to have an impact on the currency, on the dollar,” he answered, “it was designed to grow the economy.”
Similarly, Mr. Obama also pushed back on his failure to convince the South Koreans to open its market to US cars and beef in a trade deal that could increase US exports by $10 billion and support more than 70,000 US jobs.
“I’m not interested in signing a trade agreement just for the sake of an announcement,” he said “It was important to take the extra time so that I am assured that it is a win for American workers and American companies as well as for Korean workers and Korean companies, because I’m the one who’s going to have to go to Congress and sell it.”
The president admitted that there is “a lot of suspicions that some of these trade deals may not be good for America,” but said that he thinks this one can be.
Asked if he could promise the American people that they would see noticeable job growth before he runs for reelection, he suggested he already has delivered.
“We’ve grown the economy by a million jobs over the last year. So that’s pretty noticeable. I think those million people who’ve been hired noticed those paychecks.”
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller