Lew Starts Euro Journey with (Friendly) Bailout from French Host

Photograph by Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images

French President Francois Hollande, left, welcomes U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at the Elysee presidential palace on Jan. 7, 2014 in Paris.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew today started a visit to Europe by reiterating his call for the region to jump-start its economy — one day before meetings in Germany, the principal target of his prodding.

“It’s clear that some countries have more capacity to stimulate growth and demand than others do,” said Lew, in Paris on the first stop of a two-day trip to France, Germany and Portugal.

The Treasury Department has criticized Germany for “anemic” domestic demand growth and complained that the country’s current-account surplus, which rose to more than 7 percent of gross domestic product in the first half of last year, demonstrates that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel could do more to spark the economy.

At a news conference with French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, Lew pushed for Europe to bolster the stability of its banks. He also gave his hosts a pat on the back, saying he’s confident the French government “remains committed to doing what it takes to foster recovery.”

Moscovici returned the favor.

A lingering cold left Lew with a faint and scratchy voice just hours after he arrived on an overnight flight from Washington. Moscovici, eager to help his counterpart, did the vast majority of the talking, weighing in on topics ranging from tax evasion to a Newsweek article critical of France and its leaders.

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