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The White House

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Aboard Air Force One En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                           September 24, 2009
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3:06 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS:  Fire away.
Q    Gordon Brown, are we snubbing him?  And if not, why did we turn down five requests for bilaterals?
MR. GIBBS:  The notion that there remains anything other than a special relationship between the two countries is silly and absurd.  The President spoke with Prime Minister Brown on the phone in the lead-up to G20 just two weeks ago.  They spent time after the climate change dinner on Monday.  They spent time after the Security Council today, and obviously went into the Friends of Pakistan meeting together, on an issue that's of great concern to both countries.
So I think -- I think this is a media-generated bunch of silliness.

Q    Bunch of silliness?
MR. GIBBS:  Bunch of silliness.
Q    But why did we turn down the request for a bilateral?
MR. GIBBS:  We have -- because we're talking to them constantly.  The notion that you can only do this in one meeting I think would -- doesn’t make any sense.  Because of the special relationship we have, we're in constant communication.
Q    Can I ask a --
MR. GIBBS:  Stop reading those London tabloids --
Q    Can I ask a G20 question?  Can you talk about this push by the U.S. to get the G20 to talk about a move toward more balanced, sustainable growth, and what do you hope to get out of that?
MR. GIBBS:  We'll have a little bit more on that I think later today, so I don't want to get too far ahead of it.
Q    On what?
MR. GIBBS:  Sustainable growth.  I do think that -- there are a couple things I think that will be a focus in the next sort of 36 hours, or 24 hours, depending on -- I guess 24 -- didn’t mean to extend our stay.  Obviously when all the nations met in late March and early April, we were -- there were perilous economic times.  Coming out of that meeting, many nations, the United States as a leader, took concerted steps to stabilize our financial system.  We had passed obviously a recovery plan to kick-start our economy.  So this meeting was -- this meeting in many ways is a follow-up to where we are now, what we can do to lay that groundwork that the President always talks about for sustainable long-term growth.
I think obviously the meeting will be dominated by discussions of financial regulatory reform that is going on both in the United States and efforts throughout the world to ensure that what happened never happens again.  You'll hear Secretary Geithner, who's already spent a lot of time with the finance ministers, his counterparts, discussing greater capital requirements for banks.  There will be some -- we believe a resolution on subsidies on fossil fuels, which is tremendously important.
So I think all of those things will be major topics in the next 24 hours.
Q    Chancellor Merkel says she's worried that the discussion of sustainable growth and balanced growth may be a distraction from the discussion of the regulatory measures that she thinks are much more important. 
MR. GIBBS:  I don’t -- look, I don't think they're in any way mutually exclusive.  I think obviously the President is going to spend a lot of time over the fall working on financial regulatory reform, and I know, as I said, Secretary Geithner has spent quite a bit of the lead-up to this G20 working to create an international consensus around things like greater capital requirements for banks.
So I don't -- I think we've proved that -- we've proven in previous summits and G20s that we can get a lot of business done at one meeting.
Q    Can I follow just on that one point?  In terms of expectations, the American people who are trying to follow all these summits and seeing how it relates to them, what's the most important specific action item that you'd like to emerge with?
MR. GIBBS:  I think, quite frankly, it will be financial regulatory reform.  I think it will be an international consensus on taking steps, many of which are being proposed by the United States, again, to ensure stability in the financial system.  We do know that unless we all have greater rules for the road, money can fly and transfer anywhere.  So if there are weaker rules in one place but everybody else is taking concerted efforts, you don't have a defense against what happened not happening again, because money can always go to a place very quickly.  So we all need to take those concerted and collective actions.  I think that's what's going to come out of this.
Q    Robert, is it now more likely than not the President will go to Copenhagen for the IOC?
MR. GIBBS:  Mark, as you guys know, we've -- an advance team departed the United States on Monday to preserve the option for the President to visit Copenhagen and lend his voice to America's bid for the 2016 Olympics.  That hasn't changed.  No final decisions have been made as of yet.
Q    But it sounded like a final decision when you said he wasn't going to go, he was going to send the First Lady.
MR. GIBBS:  Well, the First Lady -- that was a final decision.  The First Lady is going.  But we like to keep you guys on your toes.
Q    So it's possible he may go?
MR. GIBBS:  Absolutely.  I mean, the advance team was sent in for that possibility.  We didn't -- we wanted to ensure that if he went -- if he could go, we were ready.  And that's the precaution we've taken.
Q    Would it be a daytrip to Copenhagen?
MR. GIBBS:  I think it would be a very quick trip, yes.
Q    In and out?
MR. GIBBS:  Yes.
Q    Was the President disappointed that Qadhafi didn't come to the Security Council meeting today?
MR. GIBBS:  So many answers to that question.  No, I -- look, I think it would have been interesting to see if all countries would have stayed within their five-minute allotted time period had Mr. Qadhafi been there. 
I do think -- I would say that I think the message that the Libyans had at the Security Council is a message that we hope that the Iranians and the North Koreans will take to heart, and that is giving up a nuclear weapons program and the benefits that it can have for international cooperation and for their reintegration into an international community. 
And I think -- well, let's hope that as the Security Council has taken these important steps, I think there's no doubt we've made progress over the past several days in -- particularly in the statements from the Russians yesterday on how to deal with Iran if it comes to that.  We've made progress and we hope that those two countries will heed the example of the Libyans just a few years ago.
All right, guys.
Q    Thanks.
MR. GIBBS:  Thank you.
3:15 P.M. EDT