- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

LONDON (AP) - After proclaiming “I think we did OK” at a 20-nation economic summit, President Barack Obama is teaming up with the two European leaders who gave him the most grief over his failed bid for more recession-fighting stimulus, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Continuing an eight-day, five-country international trip, the president was visiting both France and Germany on Friday ahead of an annual NATO summit on Saturday.

First, it’s Strasbourg, France, where Obama was to meet Sarkozy, then preside over a town-hall style meeting at a sports arena. Then it’s off to nearby Baden-Baden, Germany, for a meeting with Merkel.

“We expect that the discussion will review the outcomes of the G-20 summit, preview the NATO summit and discuss a number of issues of mutual interest,” said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

On Saturday, the president is back in Strasbourg for the NATO event.

Sarkozy and Merkel resisted Obama’s efforts to persuade the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations at the London summit to go along with more stimulus spending to help create jobs and ease the worst economic downturn in a generation.

But Sarkozy didn’t get what he wanted, either: tighter international regulation of financial institutions, including a global regulator empowered to swoop across borders to enforce international rules.

At one point, Sarkozy had threatened to walk out if he didn’t get his way on international regulation. However, he relented after the summit partners agreed to go part way, bringing lightly regulated hedge funds and tax havens under more international scrutiny.

Sarkozy said he was happy with the outcome. Obama “helped me on tax havens,” the French leader told reporters. “He’s a very open man. It was completely in line with what we wanted.”

Obama, asked at a news conference in London whether he was disappointed that he was unable to persuade other world leaders to go along with more stimulus, said: “I think we did OK.”

“When I came here, it was with the intention of listening and learning, but also providing American leadership,” Obama said. “And I think the document that has been produced as well as concrete actions reflect a range of our priorities.”

“In life there are no guarantees; in economics there are no guarantees,” he said.

The G-20 nations agreed to triple the International Monetary Fund’s lending power to about $1 trillion and agreed to an array of measures to tighten financial regulation and to help spur recovery. But they left many issues unresolved and put off until later acting on others.

At the NATO summit Saturday in Strasbourg, France plans to announce formally its reintegration into the military alliance’s command structure after leaving it more than four decades ago. Sarkozy has said this would mean a return of France into “the Western family.”

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