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What The U.S. Got From A Euro-Focused Summit


President Obama spent the last two days in France wrestling with Europe's financial problems. He's back in the United States this morning where America has its own economic challenges. Home and abroad, Mr. Obama and his fellow leaders are confronted with slow growth, big debts and the political battles over how to deal with them. NPR Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama capped off his visit to France by joining French president Nicolas Sarkozy and uniformed service members from both countries in a celebration of two centuries of Franco-American military cooperation.



HORSLEY: Hours later, Mr. Obama was winging his way back to Washington. The G-20 summit that brought him to France was largely consumed by the debt crisis plaguing Europe. The president offered advice and encouragement but no additional money for the Europeans. Even as he huddled with his fellow G-20 leaders, Mr. Obama was conscious of the economic challenges back home.


HORSLEY: According to the Labor Department, the U.S. economy added just 80,000 jobs last month. Continued hiring in the private sector was once again partly offset by layoffs in state and local governments. And while the unemployment rate inched down in October it's still a painfully high 9 percent.


HORSLEY: The president pointed to some areas where he's been able to work successfully with Congress, passing three new trade deals for example. But his push for a larger jobs bill with middle class tax cuts and new government spending paid for with higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans has hit a wall of resistance from congressional Republicans. And if winning cooperation from the legislature in his own country is difficult, Mr. Obama says it's that much more complicated to find consensus in the Eurozone.


HORSLEY: Europe's been under pressure to erect a financial firewall to prevent the debt crisis in Greece from spreading to bigger economies like Italy and Spain. Mr. Obama says this week's political turmoil in Greece merely underscores the importance of that effort. Leaders of the G-20 countries have been cheering the Europeans on.


HORSLEY: For all the encouragement, though, this week's summit meeting produced little in the way of specific fixes for Europe's debt problems. Ideas were floated for making more money available to countries like Italy through the International Monetary Fund. Italy also invited the IMF to monitor and provide periodic reports on its efforts to get its fiscal house in order. Mr. Obama says European leaders have the basic blueprint for protecting vulnerable economies, shoring up banks, dealing with Greece and addressing the Eurozone's structural challenges.

Now, he says, they need to act on those plans.


HORSLEY: The G-20 leaders also agreed in principle to take steps to encourage stronger economic growth, a shift from last year's focus on fiscal austerity. China even acknowledged a need to allow it's currency to appreciate more quickly. In a news conference marking the end of the G-20 summit, Mr. Obama said there's no excuse for inaction. That's the same message he'll be delivering to reluctant members of Congress here at home. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.