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Europe

Obama, Brown Stress Need for Global Unity in Fighting Economic Crisis

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, March 3, discussed a "global new deal" to rebuild the world economy and urged nations to cooperate in regulating financial markets.

Gordon Brown and Barack Obama walking at the White House

Obama and Brown both said more needs to be done to regulate financial markets

The two leaders met for the first time since Obama took office on Jan. 20 and one month ahead of a Group of 20 summit of the world's leading economies takes place in London.

"What we're talking about today is how, by us taking action, Britain and America, we can help other countries join us in making for a more stable and effective financial system," Brown said.

The turmoil in the financial markets is viewed as the biggest culprit in the economic downturn that has left both countries mired in a recession.

Both leaders have endorsed measures that better supervise the finance industry to prevent the high-risk lending that produced record mortgage defaults in the United States and the subsequent credit freeze. Playing on former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's economic program during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Brown has advocated a "global New Deal."

Global New Deal

Brown and Obama

A larger meeting of world leaders in April could bring about major changes to the banking system

"There is the possibility in the next few months of a global New Deal that will involve all the countries of the world in sorting out and cleaning up the banking system," Brown said.

Obama agreed with Brown that more needs to be done to regulate international markets.

"We believe in the free market, we believe in a government that is not overbearing and allows entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive," Obama said. "But we also share a common belief that there have to be sufficient regulatory structures in place so that the market doesn't spin out of control."

The talks in Washington were being seen as preparation for the London G20 summit on April 2, when leaders of the world's major economies and global economic financial institutions will be gathering in the British capital to address the worldwide financial crisis.

"Now is the time for leaders of every country in the world to work together to agree the action that will see us through the current crisis and ensure we come out stronger," Brown said before meeting Obama.

More international support in Afghanistan

The trip to Washington followed Sunday's informal EU Council in Brussels on the economic crisis. Following the meeting, Brown said he would take a "clear message" from EU leaders to Obama that agreeing a deal on the world economy was "vitally urgent."

Barack Obama shakes hands with a US soldier in Afghanistan

Obama visited US troops in Afghanistan during his campaign

In addition to the economic crisis, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan was another central topic to the talks.

Brown and Obama agreed that the war in Afghanistan is not winnable as long as Taliban militants and al Qaeda continue to find refuge in Pakistan. The conflict is at the top of Obama's foreign agenda, and he is expected to ask Europe for more help.

Britain already has more than 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, and the two leaders have sought greater contributions from other NATO partners, an issue that will likely arise at the alliance's summit next month.

"Both Great Britain and the United States share a deep interest in ensuring that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan are safe havens for terrorist activity," Obama said, who has pledged to send 17,000 more US soldiers to Afghanistan this year to join the 38,000 already there.

Global warming, Iran's suspect nuclear program and the Middle East are also on the agenda in Washington during Brown's visit.

Brown to warn of protectionism

Graphic showing US and EU flags with the words Buy American

European nations fear they could lose significant business through the "Buy American" clause

Brown, in a speech before the US Congress, will also call on countries to avoid trade protectionism, warning US lawmakers that retreating to protectionist economic policies could exacerbate the economic downturn even further.

The EU has repeatedly criticized the "Buy American" clause in the $787 billion US stimulus package, though it has been watered down. It stipulated that only US iron, steel and manufactured goods could be used in construction work funded by the bill. But the US administration has said it will respect international trade obligations.

Could Obama's shine wear off on Brown?

Analysts have said Brown's speech before Congress could play a key role in boosting his popularity, as it would draw attention to his political efforts to demonstrate British leadership at a time of economic uncertainty. He is only the fifth British prime minister to ever address the US Congress.

Brown, who is suffering from ongoing low popularity at home, is struggling to gain public support for his domestic stimulus package and huge bank bailouts. His governing Labour Party is trailing behind the opposition Conservatives, with a general election coming up in 2010.

Tony Blair and George Bush in Camp David

Former President Bush even invited Blair to visit Camp David

In addition, the visit could help win back Labour voters who turned their back on the party under Brown's predecessor Tony Blair.

Blair maintained close ties to former US President George W. Bush -- winning him the nickname "Bush's poodle." Blair backed Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and sent troops to join US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an article for the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Brown said there was "no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States." He said he was keen to strengthen it further.

US officials said the longtime friendship with Britain was as important as ever to Washington.

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