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President Obama's Remarks in a G20 Press Conference, September 2013

Published September 6, 2013

President Obama spoke at a Press Conference during the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg on September 6, 2013. He discussed the state of the global economy and international response to Syria.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good evening. Let me begin by thanking President Putin and the people of St. Petersburg and the people of Russia for hosting this G20. This city has a long and storied history, including its heroic resistance and extraordinary sacrifices during the Second World War. So I want to take this opportunity to salute the people of St. Petersburg and express our gratitude for their outstanding hospitality.

This summit marks another milestone in the world's recovery from the financial crisis that erupted five years ago this month. Instead of the looming threat of another financial meltdown, we're focused for the first time in many years on building upon the gains that we've made. For the first time in three years, instead of an urgent discussion to address the European financial crisis, we see a Europe that has emerged from recession.

Moreover, the United States is a source of strength in the global economy. Our manufacturing sector is rebounding. New rules have strengthened our banks and reduced the chance of another crisis. We're reducing our addiction to foreign oil and producing more clean energy. And as we learned today, over the past three and a half years, our businesses have created seven and a half million new jobs -- a pace of more than 2 million jobs each year. We've put more people back to work, but we've also cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid the foundation for stronger and more durable economic growth.

We're also making progress in putting our fiscal house in order. Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years. And as Congress takes up important decisions in the coming months, I'm going to keep making the case for the smart investments and fiscal responsibility that keep our economy growing, creates jobs and keeps the U.S. competitive. That includes making sure we don't risk a U.S. default over paying bills we've already racked up. I'm determined that the world has confidence in the full faith and credit of the United States.

As the world's largest economy, our recovery is helping to drive global growth. And in the emerging markets in particular, there's a recognition that a strong U.S. economy is good for their economies, too.

Yet we came to St. Petersburg mindful of the challenges that remain. As it emerges from recession, Europe has an opportunity to focus on boosting demand and reducing unemployment, as well as making some of the structural changes that can increase long-term growth. Growth in emerging economies has slowed, so we need to make sure that we are working with them in managing this process. And I'm pleased that over the past two days we reached a consensus on how to proceed.

We agreed that our focus needs to be on creating jobs and growth that put people back to work. We agreed on ways to encourage the investments in infrastructure that keep economies competitive. Nations agreed to continue pursuing financial reforms and to address tax evasion and tax avoidance, which undermines budgets and unfairly shifts the tax burden to other taxpayers.

We're moving ahead with our development agenda, with a focus on issues like food security and combating corruption. And I'm very pleased that the G20 nations agreed to make faster progress on phasing down certain greenhouse gases a priority. That's an important step in our fight against climate change.

During my trip, we also continued our efforts to advance two key trade initiatives: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And I believe that if we continue to move forward on all the fronts that I've described, we can keep the global economy growing and keep creating jobs for our people.

Of course, even as we've focused on our shared prosperity, and although the primary task of the G20 is to focus on our joint efforts to boost the global economy, we did also discuss a grave threat to our shared security and that's the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons. And what I've been emphasizing and will continue to stress is that the Assad regime's brazen use of chemical weapons isn't just a Syrian tragedy. It's a threat to global peace and security.

Syria's escalating use of chemical weapons threatens its neighbors -- Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel. It threatens to further destabilize the Middle East. It increases the risk that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorist groups. But, more broadly, it threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations, and those nations represent 98 percent of the world's people.

Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes, and terrorist organizations that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence. And that's not the world that we want to live in.

This is why nations around the world have condemned Syria for this attack and called for action. I've been encouraged by discussions with my fellow leaders this week; there is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by. Here in St. Petersburg, leaders from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have come together to say that the international norm against the use of chemical weapons must be upheld, and that the Assad regime used these weapons on its own people, and that, as a consequence, there needs to be a strong response.

The Arab League foreign ministers have said the Assad regime is responsible and called for "deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime." The Organization of Islamic Cooperation -- its general secretariat has called the attack a "blatant affront to all religious and moral values and a deliberate disregard of international laws and norms, which requires a decisive action."

So, in the coming days, I'll continue to consult with my fellow leaders around the world, and I will continue to consult with Congress. And I will make the best case that I can to the American people, as well as to the international community, for taking necessary and appropriate action. And I intend to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday.

The kind of world we live in and our ability to deter this kind of outrageous behavior is going to depend on the decisions that we make in the days ahead. And I'm confident that if we deliberate carefully and we choose wisely, and embrace our responsibilities, we can meet the challenges of this moment as well as those in the days ahead.

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