BRUSSELS — European countries should ease off their austerity and adopt more growth-friendly policies, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Monday as he kicked off a series of meetings with the region’s top leaders.
America’s biggest trading partner and the world’s largest economic bloc has entered the fourth year of a debt crisis, which has plunged many of the 27 EU nations into recession. The U.S. administration hopes Europe will relent in its focus on debt reduction, which has been hurting growth through spending cuts and tax increases.
“Our economy’s strength remains sensitive to events beyond our shores and we have an immense stake in Europe’s health and stability,” Lew said in Brussels. “The United States has no bigger, no more important economic relationship than it does with Europe.”
Lew, who became treasury secretary in February, started his first official trip to Europe by meeting with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. He also met the EU’s top economic and monetary official, Commissioner Olli Rehn, and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
“I was particularly interested in our European partners’ plans to strengthen sources of demand at a time of rising unemployment,” he said, speaking alongside Van Rompuy.