Today’s G-20-themed briefing came in from Cannes, France and was brought to you by Press Secretary Jay Carney with special guests Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman.
Much of the briefing was spent explaining that President Obama will be focusing throughout the G-20 meetings on the global economic climate and the European economic crisis more specifically. The big question on Americans' minds is how a possible economic default in Greece might spread to other European countries and how much it might impact the U.S. recovery. Here's what the deputies had to say:
Q Answer this question as it relates to Greece, since that’s the country that’s in crisis right now, and if they go, are you worried about the contagion effect?
MR. FROMAN: I think right now the highest priority in Greece is stabilizing the situation. But the program that Greece has is also about reforming its system and engaging in structural reforms so that it could become more competitive and therefore grow as part of the euro area.
MR. RHODES: I just want to make one very quick point, which is that you’ve seen at these other G-20s often this discussion of growth and fiscal consolidation. I think what’s represented at this G-20 is a broad understanding that you need both; that there are going to have to be steps to promote growth and job creation in the global economy, and there’s going to have be, again, that kind of deficit reduction over the medium and long-term that many of the leaders have worked on.
And similarly, in the United States, President Obama is pursuing an approach where we have an immediate growth package represented in the jobs act, and the other steps that we’re taking to promote growth and job creation at home. And we have a plan for significant deficit reduction in the medium and long-term as well.
On other matters, the two deputies were asked about the impending International Atomic Energy Agency report on the Iranian nuclear program and the significance of the president’s comments on it during this morning’s bilateral meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Here’s what the president said:
We had the opportunity to also talk about a range of security issues. One in particular that I want to mention is the continuing threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran's nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agreed on the need to maintain the unprecedented international pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.
And here’s what the deputies had to say:
MR. RHODES: Well, I mean, I’d separate it from any type of speculation or hypothetical situation as it relates to military action. I think what the President was underscoring is there’s been an ongoing concern in the international community about Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran, over many years, has been unable to demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program. It’s precisely for that reason that the United States and France have really taken the lead in applying very aggressive pressure on the Iranian government - by passing a U.N. Security Council resolution that put in place the toughest sanctions regime to date, by working to build out on those sanction through our own individual actions as nations, and again, by isolating Iran economically and diplomatically in the world.
That said, what we expect and what the President was referring to is another report on the Iranian nuclear program from the IAEA next week, which will, again, speak once more to whether or not Iran is meeting its international obligations. And that will be another important point for the international community to assess whether or not Iran is meeting those obligations. We, of course, don't believe that they are, so we'll have to be continuing to build out the pressure on the Iranian government going forward from there.
Q Iran is already thumbing its nose at the requirement next week, so how do you think it's going to play out?
MR. RHODES: Well, I wouldn't put a lot of credibility into the Iranian government's statements on these matters because they have not been able to prove with their actions the peaceful intent of their nuclear program. So how this has played out in the past is Iran has not been able to build the confidence not just of the United States but of IAEA and of the international community that their program is peaceful.
They're the only treaty member of the NPT that cannot convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that their program is peaceful. And that's precisely why they're facing the type of international pressure that they're facing. That's why the sanctions that they're under for the first time have slowed the Iranian economy to a halt, again, for the first time in decades. And that's why we're going to have to continue to be ratcheting up that pressure on the Iranian government as long as they can't meet those obligations.