July 10th, 2009
11:58 AM ET
13 years ago

Citing 'productive' G8, Obama heads to Africa with a message

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/07/10/g8.summit/art.obama.zuma.afp.gi.jpg caption="President Obama greets his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, on Friday at the Group of Eight summit."]L'AQUILA, Italy (CNN) - President Obama declared the G8 summit Friday "highly productive," writing off suggestions that the United States did not get some key things it wanted out of the meeting.

"We've agreed to take significant measures to address some of the most pressing threats facing our environment, our global economy, and our international security," Obama told reporters at a news conference.

He denied reports that the United States had sought potential new sanctions against Iran for its violent crackdown on protesters following the recent presidential election. Instead, Obama said, "What we wanted was exactly what we got, which is a statement of unity and strong condemnation about the appalling treatment of peaceful protesters."

He also noted that on climate change, the G8 nations agreed to "reduce our emissions by 80 percent" - though the deadline for such achievement was set for 2050.

"We did not reach agreement on every issue. And we still have much work ahead on climate change," Obama said. "But these achievements are highly meaningful and they'll generate significant momentum" for future talks.

The G8 - the gathering of the wealthiest nations - agreed to work together to solve the worldwide financial crisis, Obama said.

A key part of that: an agreement to invest $20 billion to fight world hunger.

Going into the meeting, the group had planned $15 billion. Obama said the change came in part due to a move on his part - citing his own family background.

"My father traveled to the united states a mere 50 years ago. And yet now I have family members who live in villages. They themselves are not going hungry, but live in villages where hunger is real. And so this is something that I understand in very personal terms," he said.

Obama said he shared that with fellow G8 leaders, and pointed to corruption and "lack of transparency" in much of Africa.

"We've got 100 million people who dropped into further dire poverty as a consequence of this recession. We estimate that 1 billion people are hungry around the globe. And so, wealthier nations have a moral obligation as well as a national security interest in providing assistance. And we've got to meet those responsibilities.

"The flip side is that countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world that are suffering from extreme poverty have an obligation to use the assistance that's available in a way that's transparent, accountable and that builds on rule of law and others that allow long-term improvement. There's no reason that Africa can't be self-sufficient when it comes to food."

The message was a key move in laying the groundwork for the president's trip to Ghana, where he will head later in the day. While he has relatives in Kenya - one of the African nations troubled by corruption - Obama has made clear why he is selecting Ghana.

"You've got there a functioning democracy, a president who is serious about reducing corruption, and you've seen significant economic growth," he said.

While the president's trip is focused on a broad array of international issues, he said he remains focused on the current centerpiece of his domestic agenda: health care reform. "It is my highest legislative priority over the next month," he said at the news conference.

Even with concerns expressed by Republicans and a group of conservative Democrats about the potential cost of his plan to overhaul the health care system, Obama said his timeline for getting legislation passed in Congress has not shifted. "I really want to get it done by the August recess," he said.

But after leaving the news conference in L'Aquila, the president had a more immediate task to focus on - an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Initial pictures from the meeting showed both men smiling as cameras snapped away.

It was expected that the two would discuss sensitive topics on which the two disagree - including abortion rights.

The pope also, earlier this week, called on financial leaders to begin a "profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise."

Initial reports following Friday's meeting quoted Obama as saying that he is certain he and the pope will have good relations.

The Obama family - Christian, though not Catholic - had a moment with the pope together. The pontiff gave the first family a special blessing.

Filed under: G-8 • President Obama
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. DLHanna

    Do you republicans understand that you come off as racist, religious fundamental, war-loving, zombie minded fanatics?

    July 10, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. yuri

    We still want to hear BHO give up USD 1,00,000, and accept a pay cut to USD 3,00,000. Better yet, he should get what Bill Blintin was nettin'-2,00,000.

    July 10, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. floyd

    hey J.P. where is your birth certificate? how do we know you are a real american citizen? maybe you should go back to Europe (assuming you are caucasian) and get your real one so we know what nationality you really are.

    July 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Christine WA

    Why is Obama spending his time either campaigning or traveling abroad while his wife spending money to expensive clothes? How I wish my sister's husband and men I know that had lost heir jobs and still unemployed for close to a year will be able to lavish their family and their wives (travels and luxury) as the Obama's. My sister and our family friends had to borrow money from relatives and everywhere to keep food in their table and survive. ENOUGH! ENOUGH! Reality is poor Americans are hurting, depressed, hungry and homeless. OBAMA WHERE ARE THE PROMISES OF CHANGE! YOU'VE BEEN PRESIDENT FOR QUITE SOMETIME AND HAVE ALL THE TRILLIONS TO SPENT, WHERE IS THE WE "MUST" PASSED OR ELSE? THE EFFECT IS NOT REACHING TO POOR AMERICANS?

    July 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  5. to tcm,southern cousins and phoenix 86

    you see you guys are just wasting your energy trying so hard and failing always to discredit barack obama.he's destined to be great that was how he rose from a nobody to the first african american president,poll numbers just like before the election will always go down and up but guess what,victory is sure.amen.he is not perfect but he's a great man.what about you?

    July 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. Jeff - Texas

    Terry – Texas

    As a conservative here is what I would do.
    Let AIG go into bankruptcy, GMC go into bankruptcy but instead we pumped 50 billion into GMC and they still went into Bankruptcy. Let all the people that bought a house they could not afford fail. Owning a house is not a right in this country. Drill for oil in Alaska and off the coast. become less foreign dependent search for more natural gas.

    Let the free market work itself out as it always does. Get rid of all the illegals, now the uninsured is cut in half.
    Quit talking about global warming crap. Democrats are not God. Get rid of the cap and trade idea since this will only eliminate more manufacturing jobs since they will be shipped overseas, as well as increase the cost of everything we eat, drink, wear, and watch. Get rid of the healthcare idea, since this is also not a right it is a benefit. I would reduce government spending by eliminating all the needless programs that we currently have. Hold parents accountable for raising and educating their children like all responsible adults do. Teach them that less government is the best way and you should not depend on them for your welfare like most of the people that want big government.. How is that for starters?

    July 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. Matt from Toronto, Canada

    Why is it wrong to apologize? If you offend someone, or wrong someone, it is appropriate to apologize... Or do you Conservative Americans not believe in being polite and having manners?

    July 10, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Fla.


    LOL. Completely absurd and empty talking points/fear-mongering. Please provide credible PROOF that President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton have apologized overseas, or it's more right-wing LIES.

    Godspeed, President Obama. Many Americans and our global allies appreciate your diplomatic strength/intelligence.

    July 10, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  9. 60's survivor

    Obama is right on. a President I can believe in. sorry so many can only mouth lies and provocative comments. always condemning and unhelpful. go to a Palin or Boehner web site so you can talk your nonsense among yourselves!

    July 10, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. mother and sister of a soldier

    What is becoming very evident from the blogs is the ability of Obama and the dems to cause division in our country with its citizens. All I hear is about the wealthy and the have nots. This is a country of equal opportunity. It just depends how hard you want to work to have it instead of feeling entitled and government handouts. Secondly, this administration, along with our AG's statements, will cause more damage to widening racial relations . Repairing the Obama damage after office will be like restoring New Oleans after Katrina....years and years!

    July 10, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. Mark

    A recent Newsy.com video analyzed media coverage on the progress (or lack thereof) made on carbon emissions at the G8 summit. One cited international source, Xinhua News from China, had this to say about what it saw as a double standard:
“While being vague about targets for themselves, the G8 leaders took a tougher position against emerging economies.”

    Obviously, China, along with India and Brazil, is one of the strongest emerging economies in the world, and has much to lose from tougher carbon restrictions.

    July 10, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. Beverly in NC

    Great job again President Obama!

    Your intelligent leadership and diplomatic approach towards the world has restored the world's trust and respect for America again.

    We are now TRULY safe in a world where people talk to each other about issues instead of threatening to hurl bombs at each other. What a tremendous relief to have intelligence, honor, decency, and integrity in the White House.

    We finally have a President we can be proud ot!

    July 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Legna

    will someone Please identify something concrete that came out OF the g8. Something that will happen within the next one to two years. I think the word productive is highly deceptive and mis-leading.

    July 10, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. AcidEatingLiberal

    LOL @ cons thinking being green is a bad thing! Oh thats right! God is getting ready for armageddon against the evil godless liberals and all the good evangelicals like Sanford, ensign , vitter ,rush and newt will be heading up to heaven and bid this 6000 year old earth goodbye! Why treat the earth well now? I had to remember how you people think. My bad.

    July 11, 2009 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
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