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Biden ramps up meetings with his economic team amid rattled global markets


By Phil Mattingly, CNN

President Joe Biden on Wednesday will hold his second closed-door meeting with his senior economic team in less than a week, marking a notable increase in tempo as global markets are rattled by a mix of soaring inflation, Europe’s energy crisis and China’s downturn.

White House economic officials have also closely eyed the growing tumult in the United Kingdom, as new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ economic plan has thrown the economy into turmoil and already drawn a Bank of England intervention, officials say.

Biden and his top advisers maintain the US faces the current international volatility from a position of strength, with an economy that has maintained steady job and wage growth through months of high inflation and international tumult.

“The United States of America is in a stronger position than any other country to navigate these global challenges, period,” Biden said at a meeting of his Competition Council comprised of top administration economic and cabinet officials earlier this week.

While Biden is regularly updated on the state of the economy, the two closed-door meetings — one noted on the public schedule, one that was not — underscore a view inside the West Wing that the administration must remain vigilant as the global economy faces an array of post-pandemic and Ukraine conflict headwinds.

White House officials have grappled with an uncertain and often unstable global economy since their first day in office. The economic emergency from the pandemic came in fits and starts, and drove a myriad of supply chain challenges and headaches. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a new, and acutely painful, threat earlier this year as energy prices around the world soared.

But Biden’s team has been unequivocal that despite four-decade high inflation, the US remains in a stronger position than any other economy in the world. It’s a critical message just two months from the midterm elections, where the economy remains a central issue in the campaign battles underway across the message.

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said this week the White House is paying “a lot of attention” to areas of particular weakness in the global economy — areas that included the challenges facing Europe, the UK and China.

“We’re certainly in a complicated and in many ways unprecedented transition, but I think that there’s every reason to have a lot of confidence in the US position in the context of a globally uncertain environment,” Deese said at a Tuesday event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington DC.

Biden’s meeting on Wednesday was noted on his public schedule, in part, to underscore that the President is paying attention to the unsettling global economic picture, one official familiar with the planning said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse are scheduled to attend the meeting, among others, according to a White House official.

The scale and diffuse nature of the global challenges — and concern over potential spill-over effects on the US economy — have drawn a sustained focus inside the West Wing.

“We meet at a moment, to state the obvious, of global uncertainty and — in countries around the world grappling with elevated inflation and — and an ongoing war in Ukraine is presenting challenges as well,” Biden said.

But even as Biden and his economic team grapple with high inflation, a White House official pointed to a series of major economic legislative victories as critical to laying the groundwork for an economy able to withstand the current unpredictability.

Officials still view it as unlikely that the US will see a significant effect from the energy crisis that has coursed through Europe due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The US remains a leading producer of oil and gas, where Europe has rapidly attempted to wean itself off of significant reliance on Russian energy.

“The situation in Europe and the UK is very, very difficult right now,” Deese said. “They’re significantly more exposed to energy price volatility and they don’t have some of the incumbent strengths that we have here economically.”

US officials have worked intensively for months the mitigate the effects of markets sapped of Russia’s energy supply, primarily in order to maintain the unity critical to the Western coalition that has supported Ukraine throughout the war.

China’s downturn, at least in the near-term, has played a key role in a paradoxically positive effect on one critical area: Gas prices.

But officials are keeping a close eye on the world’s second largest economy, even as Biden’s primary public focus on the American economy — and what officials view as critical accomplishments given the global turmoil — has remained steadfast.

“Over the last few years, we’ve faced some of the most difficult challenges in our history, but we’re actually making progress helping folks get just a little more breathing room,” Biden said this week.

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