World financial leaders paper over disagreement


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The Independent Online

The Group of 7 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Marseille closed at the weekend with an acknowledgement from participants that the global economy is slowing, but with no commitment to take new action to stimulate growth.

The delegates said in a communiqué: "There are now clear signs of a slowdown in global growth. We are committed to a strong and coordinated response to these challenges."

Yet there was no direct response to the call from Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund, for those nations that have room to borrow in the international capital markets to slow their pace of fiscal consolidation in order to support immediate-term growth. The statement pledged only to enact "growth enhancing fiscal consolidation". This ambiguous wording was designed to paper over a disagreement between the White House, which wants the US Congress to approve a $450bn (£284bn) stimulus package, and the German government, which believes that deficit reduction should be the priority of all advanced nations.

Germany's Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said after the meeting: "We said that too high deficits are a main problem... therefore the course of deficit consolidation has to be continued." The summit is unlikely to do much to reassure investors that there is a focus on growth. Gilles Moec, an economist with Deutsche Bank in London, said: "There is no sense of direction, which is entirely expected given that there is no agreement on the path for fiscal policy between the US and Europe."

Ms Lagarde also stepped back from her controversial call last month for European banks to be urgently recapitalised. She described a leaked IMF analysis showing estimated capital losses of European banks at €200bn as "tentative", and added that the fund was "in discussions with our European partners to assess the... methodology". The G7 did, however, agree to increase by $38bn the amount of loans to countries involved in the Arab Spring.