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BBC World Service

White House trying to avoid economic headwinds from Europe

Christian Fraser Dec 6, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Pay no attention to the ratings agencies — we’ve got a continent to save. That’s the rough translation of what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this morning. She was talking about S&P’s warning that it may downgrade the credit ratings of 15 eurozone countries. The more important issue for European leaders this week is coming up with a long-term solution to the debt crisis in time for a summit on Friday.

For more, let’s bring in the BBC’s Christian Fraser. He’s with us now from Paris. Good morning.

Christian Fraser: Good morning.

Hobson: Well, bring us up to date on what is expected at the point out of this big summit on Friday?

Fraser: That’s right — we’re heading to a big summit on Friday which will bring together all the 17 eurozone countries. What France and Germany are keen to do is sort out the policing of the eurozone economies. They want to put in place penalties in the future that will try and keep governments to a timeline on spending and taxation. What they think they have is an agreement in principle — but of course, that has to be debated among the other countries on Friday.

Hobson: And Christian, our own Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is on a bit of a European grand tour right now — what’s he up to?

Fraser: Well, President Obama constantly tells the American public that the biggest danger to the American economy is the headwinds from Europe. So I think the very fact that he’s here on this grand tour is a very deliberate signal that the White House is worried — and worried not just at the fundamentals of the economies in the eurozone, but worried the eurozone countries aren’t doing enough, need to be kept to the mark.

So he’ll be looking at all the plans. He’s in Germany today, he’ll be in France tomorrow, he’ll be in Milan on Thursday. I think the only wonder is that he’s not going to the big summit in Brussels on Friday. I guess that might be too sensitive, perhaps a step too far. But we are seeing the White House playing an increasing role; and hardly surprising, I would say, given what’s at stake.

Hobson: The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris. Thanks so much.

Fraser: You’re welcome.

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