During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today, President Obama said he is still holding out hope that Congress will agree to a deal averting budget cuts set to hit March 1.

“I never think that anything is inevitable,” he said. “You always have the opportunity to make the right decisions… I’ve also been very clear that there’s an alternative, which is for us to take a balanced approach that I’ve presented.”

The president was also optimistic about strong economic recovery if the cuts are averted. He added that sequestration would not directly affect the rest of the world, although slow U.S. growth could have a negative impact.

“So I don’t think anybody would like to see this outcome, and particularly when we’re poised to grow rapidly as housing comes back,” he said. “We’re starting to see real signs of the real recovery taking root. It’s the wrong prescription, but ultimately, I don’t need to persuade world leaders of that. They know that. I’ve got to persuade member of Congress, and that can be harder sometimes.”

Asked if he sees any realistic signs that Congress will reach such a deal, Obama quipped, “Hope springs eternal,” pledging to push his own “balanced” plan.