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Obama: Have confidence in U.S. economy

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President Obama said Saturday that investors can have "absolute confidence" in the U.S. economy, continuing a recent push to try to shore up markets after months of dire warnings had driven stock indexes to decade-long lows and prompted worry from the Chinese government its investments weren't secure.

Mr. Obama also promised to "not go backwards" on trade and warned against protectionism in the face of an economic downturn, though he said "it may be difficult" to get done any new trade deals.

The comments came as the president met with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the White House in advance of a meeting of leaders from the world's biggest economies, known as the Group of 20 or G-20, early next month in London.

"There's a reason why even in the midst of the economic crisis you've seen actual increases in investment flows here into the United States," Mr. Obama said in trying to boost faith in the U.S. economy.

"I think it's a recognition that the stability not only of our economic system but also our political system is extraordinary, and so I think that not just the Chinese government but every investor can have absolute confidence in the soundness of investments in the United States."

The president and his administration have tried over the last several days to argue the economy is in better shape than some fear, with Mr. Obama, his chief spokesman, his Treasury secretary and his chief economic adviser all making the case.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters in Beijing this week his country's leaders are concerned over their investments in the U.S. China in particular is the largest holder of the U.S. government's public debt.

For his part, Mr. Lula said there's some worry because as money flows to the U.S. in the midst of an economic crisis it flows from developing countries.

He said that question and others will have to be addressed at the upcoming G-20 meeting in London.

"We have to make more quicker decisions, that is to say the number of unemployed people are increasing in the world and the unemployed of today is a social problem of tomorrow," Mr. Lula said, according to the official translation.

Mr. Lula heaped praise on Mr. Obama but also set high expectations for him. He asked that Mr. Obama reopen the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations and said he is in "a unique and exceptional position" to get things done, though he also said Mr. Obama is unlucky to face such a crisis.

"I'm praying more for him than I'm praying for myself," Mr. Lula said, adding he wouldn't "want to be in his position."

"You sound like you've been talking to my wife," Mr. Obama joked.

Mr. Obama said a long-running feud over a U.S. tariff on ethanol, of which Brazil is the world's largest producer, won't be solved in the short-term. But the U.S. president said the two countries need to cooperate on technology and science for now and "over time this source of tension can get resolved."

The Brazilian president, who in 2007 hosted then-President George W. Bush and pushed cooperation on ethanol, said he understood this was a long process to deal with ethanol and other trade barriers.

Mr. Obama has also been conducting a round of calls with world leaders to lay the groundwork for the G-20 meeting, and he disputed reports of conflict among top officials within his administration or between his administration and other major countries who will be meeting.

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