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Obama team set to fix economy

WASHINGTON, November 12 – President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team are focusing on fixing the US economy, leaving reform of the global financial system and the G20 summit this Saturday in Washington to President George W. Bush.

Obama will not attend the gathering or hold any meetings with world leaders travelling to Washington for the global summit on the deepening economic crisis, aides have said.

There had been speculation that the next US president, who takes office January 20, would take the chance to make an early acquaintance with his future negotiating partners.

But his spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that in line with protocol, Obama would stay away, though it was possible some of his aides would play some kind of role in Washington at the weekend.

"He\’s very interested and thought it was very good to have the meeting," Gibbs said of the G20 gathering Monday.

In his first press conference as president-elect Obama made it clear he would not interfere with the waning days of the Bush administration.

"Now, the United States has only one government and one president at a time. And until January 20th of next year, that government is the current administration," he said Friday in Chicago.

Ralph Bryant, an expert on international economic issues at the Brookings Institution, sees that position as prudent.
"I can guess that he feels he hasn\’t been involved in whatever preparations has been made for the meeting and he probably has not himself had a chance to think about the details and the kind of things that are going to be discussed," Bryant told AFP.

Thus the final G20 summit of the Bush administration could see very little in the way of results, despite the desire by world leaders to act swiftly.

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"I\’m afraid I have low expectations about the summit and I\’m in fact quite worried that generally expectations may be set too high and then very little happens. The markets are going to be disappointed and are going to have a bad reaction," Bryant said.

The real decisions on finance system reform may have to wait for the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, international leaders are waiting to see if Obama will support increased multilateralism and greater regulation in the international financial system.

In a speech in London Monday British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Obama to lead a new era of US cooperation and multilateralism.

"As America stands at its own dawn of hope — so let that hope be fulfilled through a pact with the wider world to lead and shape the 21st century as the first century of a truly global society," he said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) could take a leading role in rethinking the international financial regulation, as its mandate permits.

But in this transition period, the Bush administration will not take a decision, and neither will the Obama team, Bryant forecast.

"There is sympathy to strengthen supervision and regulation, but no decision will be taken right away," he predicted.

If he has given no indication of his stance on the world economy, Obama has clearly defined his priorities at home.

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"Immediately after I become president, I\’m going to confront this economic crisis head on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity," Obama said Friday.

The incoming administration does not want to be too closely associated with the Bush administration\’s 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout plan, which is unpopular with the US public, sources close to the president-elect have said.

Obama and Democratic lawmakers — who will have more seats in the incoming Congress — also want to see a new emergency economic stimulus package passed as soon as possible.

"I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than later," Obama said Friday. "If it does not get done in a lame-duck session (of Congress), it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States."

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