World leaders look beyond economic crises to future growth

World leaders gathered in Davos say western nations have done much to stabilize their debt crises, but agree more hard work and painful decisions lie ahead.

On the first day of the World Economic Forum taking place this week in the Swiss Alps, International Monetary Fund chief Christine LaGarde and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monte spoke of steps taken in the last year to stabilize economies in Europe - in particular Italy. But both were quite sober about the work that needs to be done, and the rigorous, ongoing nature of economic reforms. 

U.S. economist Behravesh Nariman, of Colorado-based global information company IHS, said Americans have a big interest in the path that lies ahead for Europe.

"There are a number of channels through which what happens in Europe affects us," Nariman said. "If they aren't growing, our exports to their markets aren't growing. Any financial problems in Europe will affect us. Financially, we are very interconnected with Europe."

For instance, Nariman said, if Europe were to have a "Lehman moment," a reference to the 2008 crash of an investment bank once thought too big to fail, it could drag down a lot of U.S. banks.

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In the meantime, Europeans look curiously at America's fiscal cliff drama. UBS Chairman Axel Weber pointed out that from the perspective on this side of the pond, it's interesting that one big fight in the U.S. has been about lifting the debt ceiling, where in Europe it is about trying to get rid of debt.

"Let's be honest," said Nariman. "Both the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff are manufactured crises, with Congress imposing these limits and deadlines on themselves. We don't have to do it this way. We can cut spending and make tax reforms without going through this periodically."

As Europe tenuously holds its financial house together, it looks to America to solve its problems.

"The most important thing they would like is to see a quick resolution of our fiscal situation in the U.S.  I think they are getting a little tired of it, as Americans are," Nariman said.  

On the political level, Nariman thinks Europeans would like to see more engagement from the U.S.

"The U.S. is still the premier world power, and with that comes responsibility," Nariman said. "But we've held back and let Europeans take the lead in places like Syria, Algeria, and Mali and in that sense, I think Europeans are hoping the U.S. will play a greater role."

It was pointed out that Europeans often complained President George W.Bush was too quick to flex America's military muscle.

"Europeans can't quite decide what they want-a little too much under Bush, a little too little under Obama," Nariman said. "I think they would like something I between.  But they are sending mixed signals, to be fair.  America gets mixed signals from Europe."

Nariman is optimistic about America right now, saying in terms of economics, the U.S. is in good shape. He predicted growth will pick up as the year progresses - and growth is the buzz word here at Davos.

Fox News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Amy Kellogg is monitoring the World Economic Forum

Amy Kellogg currently serves as a Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent based in Milan, Italy. She joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999 as a Moscow-based correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @amykelloggfox