During his visit to Cannes on Thursday to attend the G-20 summit, President Obama will be tasked with addressing a series of significant economic issues, both regional and global. Here are a few questions to consider while he's in France.
1) How will Obama address the euro zone debt crisis?
Obama has urged a long-term solution to Europe's debt crisis for months, so the G-20 summit will be an important opportunity for him to respond to the latest news surrounding a proposed European Union aid package to Greece, which is intended to alleviate the crisis. The problems in the euro zone are easily going to be the biggest issue dealt with at the summit, and Obama is treating it as such: He plans to meet separatelywith French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before official discussions begin. Expect him to insist on the need for a broader solution as soon as possible and to emphasize that without one, a vulnerable European economy could affect both the U.S. recovery and international economies at large.
2) Have domestic disputes hurt the president's political clout abroad?
If Obama hopes to influence European leaders, he'll need to prove that U.S. debt issues--as well as lingering domestic-policy disagreements with Republicans--have not affected his political strength. At last year's G-20 summit in Seoul, Obama faced concerns from world leaders about U.S. economic growth; this time around, he will have to instill confidence in his ability to lead the U.S. out of economic stagnation.
3) What will Obama say about the yuan?
In Seoul, Obama notably failed to persuade the G-20 leaders to include strong language in a joint statement about China's currency. Since his election, Obama has continually pushed the idea that China intentionally manipulates the value of its currency to encourage cheap products at the expense of U.S. job growth, so it's all but assured that he'll address the problem again in Cannes. Keep an eye on how strongly he presses summit leaders to let the value of the yuan rise, especially if Friday's unemployment figures suggest a dismal future for American workers.
4) Are trade surpluses the answer?
The president has already urged countries with large trade surpluses to invest domestically in an effort to promote a balanced global economy. If he does the same at this year's summit, it will surely come on the backs of discussions about other important issues involving long-term economic solutions: China's surplus aside, Germany has a significant trade surplus and is a key player in the European debt crisis.
5) Can Obama open more markets to U.S. exports?
Obama will likely push for more U.S. access to overseas markets at the summit, especially regarding the South Korean free-trade agreement that was ratified by Congress on October 12 but has yet to be approved by Seoul's lawmakers. The trade pact marks a big step forward from last year's G-20 summit, where Obama didn't make a comprehensive trade deal with South Korea but worked out the details afterward; expect the president to use the international stage to encourage more opportunities to sell American goods abroad as a means to boost the U.S. economy.