President makes remarks September 25 in Pittsburgh
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 25, 2009
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AT G20 CLOSING PRESS CONFERENCE
Pittsburgh Convention Center
5:13 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Let me, first of all, thank Mayor Luke
Ravenstahl, County Executive Dan Onorato, and the people of Pittsburgh for being
just extraordinary hosts. Last night during the dinner that I had with world
leaders, so many of them commented on the fact that sometime in the past they
had been to Pittsburgh -- in some cases it was 20 or 25 or 30 years ago -- and
coming back they were so impressed with the revitalization of the city. A
number of them remarked on the fact that it pointed to lessons that they could
take away in revitalizing manufacturing towns in their home countries. The
people here have been just extraordinary, and so I want to thank all of you for
the great hospitality.
I will tell you I'm a little resentful because I did not get to Pamela's
Diner for pancakes. (Laughter.) Although, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of
Japan did get pancakes. And I don't know how he worked that, but he was raving
Six months ago, I said that the London Summit marked a turning point in the
G20's effort to prevent economic catastrophe. And here in Pittsburgh, we've
taken several significant steps forward to secure our recovery, and transition
to strong, sustainable, and balanced economic growth. We brought the global
economy back from the brink. We laid the groundwork today for long-term
prosperity, as well.
It's worth recalling the situation we faced six months ago -- a contracting
economy, skyrocketing unemployment, stagnant trade, and a financial system that
was nearly frozen. Some were warning of a second Great Depression. But because
of the bold and coordinated action that we took, millions of jobs have been
saved or created; the decline in output has been stopped; financial markets have
come back to life; and we stopped the crisis from spreading further to the
Still, we know there is much further to go. Too many Americans are still out
of work, and struggling to pay bills. Too many families are uncertain about
what the future will bring. Because our global economy is now fundamentally
interconnected, we need to act together to make sure our recovery creates new
jobs and industries, while preventing the kinds of imbalances and abuse that led
us into this crisis.
Pittsburgh was a perfect venue for this work. This city has known its share
of hard times, as older industries like steel could no longer sustain growth.
But Pittsburgh picked itself up, and it dusted itself off, and is making the
transition to job-creating industries of the future -- from biotechnology to
clean energy. It serves as a model for turning the page to a 21st century
economy, and a reminder that the key to our future prosperity lies not just in
New York or Los Angeles or Washington -- but in places like Pittsburgh.
Today, we took bold and concerted action to secure that prosperity, and to
forge a new Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth.
First, we agreed to sustain our recovery plans until growth is restored, and
a new framework for prosperity is in place. Our coordinated stimulus plans
played an indispensable role in averting catastrophe. Now, we must make sure
that when growth returns -- jobs do, too. That's why we will continue our
stimulus efforts until our people are back to work, and phase them out when our
recovery is strong.
But we can't stop there. Going forward, we cannot tolerate the same old boom
and bust economy of the past. We can't grow complacent. We can't wait for a
crisis to cooperate. That's why our new framework will allow each of us to
assess the others' policies, to build consensus on reform, and to ensure that
global demand supports growth for all.
Second, we agreed to take concrete steps to move forward with tough, new
financial regulations so that crises like this can never happen again. Never
again should we let the schemes of a reckless few put the world's financial
system -- and our people's well-being -- at risk. Those who abuse the system
must be held accountable. Those who act irresponsibly must not count on
taxpayer dollars. Those days are over.
That's why we've agreed on a strong set of reforms. We will bring more
transparency to the derivatives market. And we will strengthen national capital
standards, so that banks can withstand losses and pay for their own risks. We
will create more powerful tools to hold large global financial firms
accountable, and orderly procedures to manage failures without burdening
taxpayers. And we will tie executive pay to long-term performance, so that
sound decisions are rewarded instead of short-term greed. In short, our
financial system will be far different and more secure than the one that failed
so dramatically last year.
Third, we agreed to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels so that we can
transition to a 21st century energy economy -- an historic effort that would
ultimately phase out nearly $300 billion in global subsidies. This reform will
increase our energy security. It will help transform our economy, so that we're
creating the clean energy jobs of the future. And it will help us combat the
threat posed by climate change. As I said earlier this week in New York, all
nations have a responsibility to meet this challenge, and together, we have
taken a substantial step forward in meeting that responsibility.
Finally, we agreed to reform our system of global economic cooperation and
governance. We can no longer meet the challenges of the 21st century economy
with 20th century approaches. And that's why the G20 will take the lead in
building a new approach to cooperation. To make our institutions reflect the
reality of our times, we will shift more responsibility to emerging economies
within the International Monetary Fund, and give them a greater voice. To build
new markets, and help the world's most vulnerable citizens climb out of poverty,
we established a new World Bank Trust Fund to support investments in food
security and financing for clean and affordable energy. And to ensure that we
keep our commitments, we agreed to continue to take stock of our efforts going
We have learned, time and again, that in the 21st century, the nations of the
world share mutual interests. That's why I've called for a new era of
engagement that yields real results for our people -- an era when nations live
up to their responsibilities, and act on behalf of our shared security and
And that's exactly the kind of strong cooperation that we forged here in
Pittsburgh, and earlier this week in New York. Indeed, on issue after issue, we
see that the international community is beginning to move forward together. At
the G20, we've achieved a level of tangible, global economic cooperation that we
have never seen before, while also acting to address the threat posed by climate
change. At the United Nations Security Council, we passed a historic resolution
to secure loose nuclear materials, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to
seek the security of a world without them. And as we approach negotiations with
Iran on October 1st, we have never been more united in standing with the United
Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany in demanding that Iran live up to its
On all of these challenges, there is much more work to be done. But we leave
here today more confident and more united in the common effort of advancing
security and prosperity for all of our people.
So I'm very grateful to the other world leaders who are here today. And with
that, let me take a few questions. I'll start with Ben Feller of AP.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The Iranian President said today that
your statement of this morning was a mistake, and that your mistakes work in
Iran's favor. What gives you any sense that you can genuinely negotiate with
them? And also, when you talk about holding Iran accountable, is the military
option growing more likely?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's important to see what happened today
building on what happened in New York. You had an unprecedented show of unity
on the part of the world community saying that Iran's actions raised grave
doubts in terms of their presentation that their nuclear program was for
peaceful purposes. Not only did the United States, France, and the United
Kingdom who initiated the intelligence that brought this to light, stand before
you, but you had China and Russia as well issue statements calling for an
immediate IAEA investigation.
That kind of solidarity is not typical. Anybody who's been following
responses to Iran would have been doubtful just a few months ago that that kind
of rapid response was possible.
So I think Iran is on notice; that when we meet with them on October
1st, they are going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a
choice: Are they willing to go down the path which I think ultimately will lead
to greater prosperity and security for Iran, giving up the acquisition of
nuclear weapons, and deciding that they are willing to abide by international
rules and standards in their pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy; or will they
continue down a path that is going to lead to confrontation? And as I said
before, what has changed is that the international community I think has
spoken. It is now up to Iran to respond.
I'm not going to speculate on the course of action that we will take.
We're going to give October 1st a chance. But I think you've heard that even
countries who a year ago or six months ago might have been reluctant to even
discuss things like sanctions have said that this is an important enough issue
to peace and stability in the world that Iran would make a mistake in ignoring
the call for them to respond in a forthright and clear manner, and to recognize
that the choice they make over the next several weeks and months could well
determine their ability to rejoin the international community or to find
Last point I'll make specifically with respect to the military, I've
always said that we do not rule out any options when it comes to U.S. security
interests, but I will also reemphasize that my preferred course of action is to
resolve this in a diplomatic fashion. It's up to the Iranians to respond.
Patricia Zengerle at Reuters.
Q You said a couple months ago that the war in Afghanistan is a war
of necessity. Do you think it's possible to meet U.S. objectives there without
an extra infusion of U.S. troops? And as you consider this, how does the
public's lagging support for the war affect your decision-making now? And how
has your review process been affected by the allegations of election fraud?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, let me be clear on our goals. We went
into Afghanistan not because we were interested in entering that country or
positioning ourselves regionally, but because al Qaeda killed 3,000-plus
Americans and vowed to continue trying to kill Americans.
And so my overriding goal is to dismantle the al Qaeda network, to
destroy their capacity to inflict harm, not just on us but people of all faiths
and all nationalities all around the world, and that is our overriding
Stability in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are critical to that mission.
And after several years of drift in Afghanistan, we now find ourselves in a
situation in which you have strong commitments from the ISAF coalition, our NATO
allies. All of them are committed to making this work. But I think there's
also a recognition that after that many years of drift, it's important that we
examine our strategies to make sure that they actually can deliver on preventing
al Qaeda from establishing safe havens.
Obviously the allegations of fraud in the recent election are of concern
to us. And we are still awaiting results. We're awaiting the IEC and the ECC
issuing their full report. What's most important is that there is a sense of
legitimacy in Afghanistan among the Afghan people for their government. If
there is not, that makes our task much more difficult.
In terms of the review process that we're going through, the minute I
came into office we initiated a review, and even before that review was
completed, I ordered 21,000 additional troops into Afghanistan because I thought
it was important to secure the election, to make sure that the Taliban did not
disrupt it. What I also said at the time was that after the election, we are
going to reassess our strategy, precisely because so much of our success has to
be linked to the ability of the Afghan people themselves to provide for their
own security, their own training, the Afghan government's ability to deliver
services and opportunity and hope to their people.
So we are doing exactly what I said we would do in March. I put in a
new commander, General McChrystal, and I asked him to give me an unvarnished
assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, and he has done that, as well. But
keep in mind that, from the start, my belief was -- and this is shared with our
ISAF allies, that our military strategy is only part of a broader project that
has to include a civilian component, has to include a diplomatic component, and
all those different factors are being weighed and considered at this point. And
I will ultimately make this decision based on what will meet that core goal that
I set out at the beginning, which is to dismantle, disrupt, and destroy the al
With respect to public opinion, I understand the public's weariness of
this war, given that it comes on top of weariness about the war in Iraq. Every
time we get a report of a young man or woman who's fallen in either of those
theaters of war, it's a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifice that they're
making. I know that our partners in Afghanistan feel that same pain when they
see their troops harmed.
So this is not easy. And I would expect that the public would ask some
very tough questions. That's exactly what I'm doing, is asking some very tough
questions. And we're not going to arrive at perfect answers. I think anybody
who's looked at the situation recognizes that it's difficult and it's
complicated. But my solemn obligation is to make sure that I get the best
answers possible, particularly before I make decisions about sending additional
troops into the theater.
Jon Delano of KDKA. Is Jon around?
Q Right here.
THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you, Jon.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Let me ask you, while we were inside
this very safe and secure and beautiful convention center, some 5,000 at least
demonstrators were on the outside. Some caused some property damage; others
just shouted their messages, much of which had to do that while you believe the
G20 summit was a success and represents a positive sign, they see it as
something devilish and destructive of the world economy, and particularly the
economy of the poor. What's your response to those who are demonstrating and
those who oppose this summit?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it's important just to keep
things in perspective for the people of Pittsburgh. If you have looked at any
of the other summits that took place, I mean, in London you had hundreds of
thousands of people on the streets. In most of these summits, there has been a
much more tumultuous response. And I think the mayor and the county executive
and all the people of Pittsburgh deserve extraordinary credit for having managed
what is a very tranquil G20 summit.
You know, I think that many of the protests are just directed
generically at capitalism. And they object to the existing global financial
system. They object to free markets. One of the great things about the United
States is, is that you can speak your mind and you can protest; that's part of
our tradition. But I fundamentally disagree with their view that the free
market is the source of all ills.
Ironically, if they had been paying attention to what was taking place
inside the summit itself, what they would have heard was a strong recognition
from the most diverse collection of leaders in history that it is important to
make sure that the market is working for ordinary people; that government has a
role in regulating the market in ways that don't cause the kinds of crises that
we've just been living through; that our emphasis has to be on more balanced
growth, and that includes making sure that growth is bottom up, that workers,
ordinary people, are able to pay their bills, get -- make a decent living, send
their children to college; and that the more that we focus on how the least of
these are doing, the better off all of us are going to be. That principle was
embodied in the communiqué that was issued.
And so I would recommend those who are out there protesting, if they're
actually interested in knowing what was taking place here, to read the
communiqué that was issued.
Laurent Lozano. Is Laurent here? There he is.
Q I am here. Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to follow up on
Iran. Since Iran seems to be so blatantly in breach of its international
obligations and with some of your allies, main allies, obviously growing
impatient, why even meet with the Iranians on October 1st? And can you also
explain to us what happened between the end of 2007 when an intelligence
estimate cast doubts on the fact that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and this
year? What credit should be given to such intelligence?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, with respect to the intelligence
that we presented to the IAEA, this was the work product of three intelligence
agencies, not just one. These intelligence agencies checked over this work in a
painstaking fashion, precisely because we didn't want any ambiguity about what
exactly was going on there. And I think that the response that you saw today
indicates the degree to which this intelligence is solid and indicates the
degree to which Iran was constructing an enrichment facility that it had not
declared, contrary to U.N. resolutions and contrary to the rules governing the
In terms of meeting, I have said repeatedly that we're going to operate
on two tracks; that our preferred method of action is diplomatic, but if that
does not work, then other consequences may follow. I also said -- and this was
debated extensively here in the United States because there were some who
suggested, you can't talk to Iran, what's the point -- that by keeping the path
of diplomacy open, that would actually strengthen world unity and our collective
efforts to then hold Iran accountable. And I think you're starting to see the
product of that strategy unfold during the course of this week.
What we saw at the United Nations in the Security Council was a strong
affirmation of the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and as a
consequence, the IAEA is strengthened, and those countries who follow the rules
are strengthened when it comes to dealing with countries like North Korea and
Iran that don't follow the rules. And that means that when we find that
diplomacy does not work we will be in a much stronger position to, for example,
apply sanctions that have bite.
Now, as I said, that's not the preferred course of action. I would love
nothing more than to see Iran choose the responsible path. Whether they do so
or not will ultimately depend on their leaders and they will have the next few
weeks to show to the world which path they want to travel.
I'm going to take one last question. I've got to call on one of these
guys, you know, they're my constituency here. All right, Chip.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just mentioned sanctions that have
bite. What kinds of sanctions -- and I know you can't get into details -- but
what kinds of sanctions at all would have bite with Iran? Do you really think
any kind of sanction would have an effect on somebody like Ahmadinejad?
Secondly, some of your advisors today said that this announcement was a
"victory." Do you consider it a victory? And if so, why didn’t you announce it
earlier since you’ve known since you were President-elect?
THE PRESIDENT: This isn’t a football game, so I'm not interested in
victory; I'm interested in resolving the problem. The problem is, is that Iran
repeatedly says that it's pursuing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes,
and its actions contradict its words. And as a consequence, the region is more
insecure and vital U.S. interests are threatened.
My job is to try to solve that. And my expectation is that we are going
to explore with our allies, with the P5-plus-1, a wide range of options in terms
of how we approach Iran, should Iran decline to engage in the ways that are
You just told me I'm not going to get into details about sanctions, and
you're right, I will not. But I think that if you have the international
community making a strong united front, that Iran is going to have to pay
In terms of why we didn’t come out with it sooner, I already mentioned
to Laurent that it is very important in these kinds of high-stakes situations to
make sure that the intelligence is right. And we wanted all three agencies --
the French, the Brits, and the Americans -- to have thoroughly scrubbed this and
to make sure that we were absolutely confident about the situation there. We
are, and now it's up to Iran to respond.
Okay? Thank you very much, everybody. I hope you enjoy Pittsburgh.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 5:39 P.M. EDT