Home International Oil spill cast shadow over Obama-Cameron meet

Oil spill cast shadow over Obama-Cameron meet


Toronto : US President Barack Obama and new British Prime Minister David Cameron held their first bilateral meeting Saturday in Canada, overshadowed by tensions over BP Plc’s ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The leaders flew together by helicopter from the secluded resort of Huntsville, Ontario, site of the Group of Eight (G8) summit of industrial powers, to Toronto about 220 km south, where the larger Group of 20 (G20) bloc was to meet for the rest of the weekend.

Obama toned down his pre-summit rhetoric in a separate spat with Britain and other European leaders over the course of the global economic recovery. Both countries were “focusing both on the issues of growth, but also on the issues of financial consolidation”, Obama said.

The US ahead of the summit sounded fears that tough fiscal austerity measures announced by European countries, including Britain, could endanger the global recovery from last year’s recession.

With the G20 summit getting underway Saturday, Cameron said both sides were looking to foster global growth, but that Europe had to pay special attention to its skyrocketing deficits in order to avoid spooking markets.

“We’re aiming at the same target, which is world growth and stability, but it means those countries that have big deficit problems like ours have to take action in order to keep that level of confidence in the economy,” Cameron said.

Obama, likely referring to Britain’s own austerity plan, said Cameron had shown willingness “to make difficult decisions.” The “special relationship” between the two long-time allies remained strong.

There was no talk after the meeting of the oil spill that has clouded US-British relations since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, spewing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Feeling heat from an angry US public, Obama has promised to put pressure on BP to meet clean-up costs for what has become the biggest oil spill in US history. British officials fear their iconic company is being driven to the brink of collapse.

“We don’t want to see the destruction of the company that is important for all our interests,” Cameron told Canadian broadcaster CBC ahead of the meeting, noting that BP employs thousands of workers in the US and Britain.

Cameron described the oil spill as “heartbreaking” for residents of the US Gulf Coast, but noted that BP was “a very vital company for all of our interests”.

Cameron took office last month, leading a coalition of his Conservative Party with the Liberal Democrats.