Obama, Rajoy talk economics, security at White House

Jan. 13, 2014 at 11:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, appearing at the White House with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, said he was looking forward to a trans-Atlantic trade pact.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Monday after their bilateral meeting, Obama said he and Rajoy "have had occasion to work together on a wide range of international issues, and obviously the cooperation reflects the incredible alliance and friendship between our countries that has lasted for decades."

"The economy had undergone some wrenching difficulties that existed throughout Europe and the eurozone, and I congratulated the prime minister on the progress that's been made in stabilizing the economy, moving into growth, reducing the deficit, and being able to return to the financial markets in a way that reflects sound leadership," Obama said.

"There are still enormous challenges that lie ahead with respect to bringing down unemployment and increasing growth. ... And so we pledge to continue to cooperate closely to promote strategies for growth and job creation. One of those strategies is to put together a transatlantic trade agreement. We both agreed that there is enormous potential for increasing trade and growth between two of the largest economic actors in the world, but it will require intensive work and serious compromise on all sides, and the Prime Minister and I agreed that it's well worth the effort."

For his part, Rajoy noted progress in the eurozone and said there is "no longer talk about a bailout."

"Risk premiums are down, and some eurozone countries are starting to grow and we're starting to see some sort of solution to the problem of unemployment," Rajoy said.

Obama also said the two leaders discussed security issues in Syria and Libya, as well as terrorism in general. He thanked Spain for hosting U.S. military operations and facilities, and pledged to improve "what is already a very strong defense relationship."

Obama also reiterated his previous position that now is not the time for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran, saying his preference is for "peace and diplomacy."

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