At G20, Bush sticks to his free-market principles

At G20, Bush sticks to his free-market principles

Washington: US President George W Bush emerged from the G20 summit satisfied with having preserved the principles of free market economics, while leaving his successor wide room for maneuver.

After 24 hours of hosting world leaders in what a senior administration official called an “extraordinarily successful summit," Bush will be confronted anew with the urgency of the crisis, including decisions to be made over the fate of the country’s “Big Three" auto manufacturers.

In the space of just a few hours, the president whose approval ratings are among the worst in US history could claim to have halted an apparent “assault on capitalism," laid foundations for global financial reform, and worked out the first comprehensive international measures to tackle the crisis with leaders of industrialised and major emerging economies, top aides said.

“We just completed an extraordinarily successful summit," a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

The official drew attention to the G20 action plan agreed by the leaders, which few thought could have been achieved in such little time—and which gave Bush much of what he had wanted. “Our priorities were certainly addressed, I would say from our perspective we certainly achieved our objectives," the official said.

Bush, facing the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s in the last months of his presidency, had hesitated to call the summit. But as the meltdown worsened and economies plunged into recession, the free-market apostle Bush invited leaders to Washington.

While French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said a financial system brought to its knees by the crisis must be rebuilt, beginning with the G20 summit here, Bush stood firm against calling into question the very fundamentals of “democratic capitalism," and against excessive regulation.