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Obama needs presence on world stage

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Steve Chiotakis: In about a month, world leaders will gather for the G20 summit in London, and what happens today in Washington will help set the stage. The host of that summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will address a joint session of Congress today. He’s already met with President Obama about how the two countries can help spark a recovery from the fallout.

Let’s bring in Philip Stephens, a columnist with The Financial Times. Philip, what can the prime minister do to convince American government that this crisis extends beyond the U.S. borders?

Philip Stephens: Well, I think the core of Gordon Brown’s message to the Congress today was that even though the American economy, the U.S. economy is the biggest in the world, it can’t on its own pull the world from recession. It needs markets for its exporters, it needs the banking system in other countries, not least in the U.K., to be fixed.

Chiotakis: Philip, in your column, you’ve laid out the idea that President Obama hasn’t really been engaged in this international, the international part of this crisis. Why do you think that is?

Stephens: Well I think there are two reasons. One’s a fairly simple one, President Obama has yet to fully start his administration. You know, in preparing these international meetings, you need a lot of people. The other reasons I think is a perfectly understandable one, that the president has decided that his immediate focus in his first weeks in office has to be on the domestic scene, on fixing the U.S. banks, on the U.S. stimulus package. So what Gordon Brown’s saying is, yeah, that’s absolutely fine. But now, could you please shift your focus onto the international scene, and if you like, take ownership of the London summit, show U.S. leadership, and there’ll be an advantage in you, President Obama, from that. You don’t want your first appearance on the international stage to be seen as a failure.

Chiotakis: And what do you think the British can do for the American people? What does Gordon Brown bring to Washington?

Stephens: Well, what I think what Gordon Brown brings to Washington is a strong alliance. There’s a tradition, I think, of the British standing by the United States, in wars, in peacetime, and an instinct towards the marketplace, towards capitalism, towards the organization of society that’s quite shared. But I think we British probably overestimate, we like to overestimate I think, our influence in Washington. And I think what Mr. Obama may have said to the prime minister yesterday is, OK, it’s great to have Britain on side, but can you get the rest of Europe on side?

Chiotakis: All right. Philip Stephens, columnist for The Financial Times. Thank you.

Stephens: Thank you.

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