Even if Washington reaches a deal on the "fiscal cliff", strong growth in 2013 is far from guaranteed, Pimco's Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC on Monday.
As Congress and the White House haggle over ways to prevent some $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts from damaging the economy, El-Erian said the U.S. still faces a protracted period of soft growth.
"If we avoid the fiscal cliff…then we still looking at still sluggish growth of 1.5 to two percent next year," he told "Closing Bell." (Read more: Investors 'Should Get Used to 1-2% Growth': Pimco's Gross.)
El Erian voiced confidence that a deal would be reached by Christmas, though he said key players should avoid letting details trickle out too early and torpedo political support.
"The deal is important…because if we don't get one, this economy goes into recession and that's the last thing we need," the fund manager said.
Still, "we need this as a building block for a lot of other decisions going forward: the debt ceiling, the annual budget, the labor market, housing finance," he added. "There's a ton of things on the plate of politicians."