The Obama administration is also concerned that shocks from Europe could slow the U.S. economy and threaten President Barack Obama's re-election prospects.
Yet it's also aware there's no simple solution. European countries are straining under high borrowing costs. Their lending rates are high because investors are nervous about their debt loads relative to the strength of the economies.
Under pressure from Germany, Europe's strongest economy, governments have laid off workers, cut pay for others, reduced spending on social programs and imposed higher taxes and fees to boost revenue.
Yet as economies have shrunk, countries' debt as a percentage of their economies has worsened. Leaders are increasingly recognizing that budget-cutting must be paired with steps to invigorate Europe's economies.
The United States, along with Japan and Canada, is expected to push Merkel to do more to spur growth in Europe. Germany has begun to accept such an approach after the election of pro-growth Francois Hollande to the French presidency and the fall of a pro-austerity Dutch government.
Among the growth measures some economists recommend are reducing regulations for small businesses, making it easier for workers to find jobs across the eurozone and relaxing barriers that countries have created to protect their industries.
Germany has already negotiated higher public sector wages, a step that could encourage Germans to increase their purchases of goods from more troubled European economies.
"That is the one thing Barack Obama will try to impress on Angela Merkel," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State's Martin Smith School of Business.
But most stimulative measures take time — up to a decade, in some cases — to kick in. They won't much help a Europe that needs much stronger growth now.
Joaquin Almunia, the European Union's top antitrust official and its former economic and monetary affairs commissioners, argued Wednesday that the eurozone lacks a growth strategy that can co-exist with short-term steps to shrink government debts.
"We cannot offer to the public an adjustment period of 10 years," Almunia said.
Claudia Schmucker, an economist at the German Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that while Merkel won't drop her austerity demands she will eventually agree to some growth measures.
A growth agreement among European leaders would at least "show that we are doing something," Schmucker said.
In light of all the obstacles, expectations are low for a breakthrough at Camp David this weekend.
"There will be nothing here that tackles the fundamental key questions looming over the global economy," Kierkegaard said.
McHugh reported from Frankfurt. AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
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