Obama: Strong U.S. Economy Key to Global Recovery

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SEOUL, South Korea — President Barack Obama said a strong, job-creating economy in the United States would be the country's most important contribution to a global recovery as he pleaded with world leaders to work together despite sharp differences.

Arriving in South Korea on Wednesday for the G-20 summit, Obama is expected to be on the defensive because of plans by the Federal Reserve to buy $600 billion in long-term government bonds to try to drive down interest rates, spur lending and boost the U.S. economy. Some other nations complain that the move will give American goods an unfair advantage.

In a letter sent Tuesday to leaders of the Group of 20 major economic powers, Obama defended the steps his administration and Congress have taken to help the economy.

[Read more about the economy and unemployment.]

"The United States will do its part to restore strong growth, reduce economic imbalances and calm markets," he wrote. "A strong recovery that creates jobs, income and spending is the most important contribution the United States can make to the global recovery."

Obama outlined the work he had done to repair the nation's financial system and enact reforms after the worst recession in decades. He implored the G-20 leaders to seize the opportunity to ensure a strong and durable recovery. The summit gets under way on Thursday.

"When all nations do their part — emerging no less than advanced, surplus no less than deficit — we all benefit from higher growth," the president said in the letter.

The divisions between the economic powers was evident when China's leading credit rating agency lowered its view of the United States, a response to the Federal Reserve's decision to buy more Treasury bonds. Major exporting countries such as China and Germany are complaining that the Federal Reserve's action drives down the dollar's value and gives U.S. goods an edge in world markets.

Earlier Wednesday Obama was in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, issuing a call for trust and cooperation. Obama and his wife, Michelle, visited the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia. He noted that it was under construction when he lived in Indonesia as a boy from 1967 to 1971.

[See photos of the Obamas abroad.]

Obama made a strikingly personal appeal to the Muslim world to join the West in the battle to defeat al-Qaida and violent extremism.

"Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is part of me," he said in the language, cheering the audience of more than 6,000 mostly young people at the University of Indonesia.

He acknowledged the fraying that remains in U.S.-Islamic relations despite his best efforts at repair. He urged both sides to look beyond "suspicion and mistrust" to forge common ground against terrorism.

Obama praised this nation of islands for progress in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism, and he resurrected a theme he sounded last year during visits to Turkey and Egypt: "I have made it clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam. ... Those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy."

His brief but nostalgic visit lent an unusually personal touch to the speech, portions of which were devoted to his childhood here. Obama reminisced about living in a small house with a mango tree out front, and learning to love Indonesia while flying kites, running along paddy fields, catching dragonflies and buying food from street vendors.

Obama, a Christian who was born in Hawaii, moved to Indonesia as a 6-year-old and lived with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. He attended public and Catholic schools while in Indonesia and returned to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his grandparents.

Obama took care in his remarks to note that he is Christian; back home in the U.S., he continues to fight erroneous perceptions that he is Muslim.

  • See photos of the Obamas abroad.
  • Read more about the economy and unemployment.