Last week Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister and Mr. Geithner’s host for the weekend, gave a tart review of the Obama administration’s stimulus in a local newspaper here.
“If the problem is an excess of debt, the cure is not adding more debt, whether that debt is public or private,” he wrote in the Corriere della Sera. Italy is one of the most indebted countries in Europe. Its debt surpasses its annual gross domestic product.
The national debt of the United States, by contrast, was about 40 percent of G.D.P. at the end of 2008, but Moody’s expects that to rise to 60 percent by 2010 as a result of the recession and spending tied to the federal bailout and stimulus programs.
On Saturday, Mr. Tremonti also spoke disdainfully of the “Buy America” provision in the stimulus plan, which covers iron, steel and manufactured goods, as a political slogan. He and other ministers emphasized the importance of keeping the American economy free of protectionism.
The president of the World Bank, Robert B. Zoellick, said he told ministers this weekend how crucial it was to keep the world economy open and to avoid the protectionist policy errors of the 1930s. “The Buy American provision is very dangerous,” he said.
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