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Early signs of consensus at G-8 summit

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The leaders of the Group of Eight world economic powers have taken the first steps toward a "broad consensus" on the need to balance growth with shrinking deficits, a senior White House official said Friday.

President Obama attended a luncheon at the G-8 summit in Toronto to discuss economic policies with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom, according to the official.

The official acknowledged that there were different "points of emphasis" among the leaders at the meeting, which is in its early stages. But he said there is a "convergence of views" and that the president is "confident" about the upcoming meetings of the Group of 20 nations, which includes China, India and other developing economic powers.

"There is broad consensus among G-8 leaders on how to maintain durable growth while reaffirming our shared commitment to fiscal consolidation going forward," the official said.

President Obama has stressed the need to keep economic stimulus measures in place to prevent a global slowdown. But European nations have been moving toward more conservative fiscal policies as the region grapples with an ongoing debt crisis.

In a letter to G-20 leaders sent earlier this week, the president wrote that safeguarding and strengthening the economic recovery should be "our highest priority in Toronto."

"This means that we should reaffirm our unity of purpose to provide the policy support necessary to keep economic growth strong," he wrote. "In fact, should confidence in the strength of our recoveries diminish, we should be prepared to respond again as quickly and as forcefully as needed to avert a slowdown in economic activity."

Meanwhile, European nations have been cutting back on public spending and raising taxes to cope with massive budget deficits. The euro has been in a tailspin as investors bet against the proposed austerity measures and worry the European Union could slide back into recession.

On Tuesday, the United Kingdom unveiled one of its harshest budgets in decades. The five-year budget, widely anticipated by fiscal experts, may hold lessons for U.S. policymakers who will face similar quandaries about how to rein in debt.

"The president sees deficit reduction as part of a long-term growth strategy," the White House official said. To top of page

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