US and German finance ministers play down differences | News | DW | 09.04.2013
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US and German finance ministers play down differences

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have met for the first time in Berlin. In a press conference, they emphasized their common interests despite different views on austerity.

During a joint press conference in Berlin, the new US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew answered questions alongside his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble regarding their respective economies.

The statements followed a private meeting, which Schäuble described as a "friendly, intense exchange of opinions" about the economic situations in the United States and the European Union.

They said the current Merkel and Obama administrations held common economic philosophies - ones that believed in fiscal discipline and spurring economic growth - which were not "mutually exclusive" concepts, Schäuble told reporters.

"Nobody, including in Europe, sees this contrast between fiscal consolidation and growth. Our common position is of growth-friendly consolidation or of sustainable growth, whatever you want to call it," he said.

Nevertheless, the economic situations in the two countries were different and, therefore, Tuesday's meeting was more about informing one another of these differing circumstances rather than offering unsolicited advice, Schäuble added.

Germany has taken on a central role in implementing tough austerity measures in the crisis-stricken EU, making it widely unpopular in the countries hit hardest by the downturn. However, Berlin has defended its steps meant to help EU countries recover while shielding its own country, which has a surplus, from economic ruin.

Lew emphasized that the US had an interest in EU stability and praised his counterpart's efforts toward achieving that stability across the eurozone.

"As we continue to address many of our long-term challenges, our economy's strength remains sensitive to events beyond our shores. We have an immense stake in a prosperous Europe," he said.

However, he did subtly criticize German policy regarding efforts to spur consumer demand.

"The driver for economic growth has got to be consumer demand ... policies to help to encourage consumer demand in countries that have the capacity would be helpful," Lew said, repeating a point he has made in the past.

The Obama administration has attempted to pursue a path that raises taxes, moderates spending cuts, and has, as Lew said on Tuesday, led to 14 consecutive months of economic expansion.

President Barack Obama recently appointed Lew, who served as his chief of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2010 to 2012 and has earned a reputation as a "master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle."

He was scheduled to travel to Paris to meet with his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici later on Tuesday.

kms/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)