China reluctant to get involved in balancing act

Hopes for an agreement to address the huge trade surpluses being run up by China, Japan, Germany and other successful exporters – the most important of the so-called global imbalances – were dashed even before the first G20 summit under French chairmanship got under way in Paris.

The Governor of the People's Bank of China declared: "External pressure has never been an important factor of consideration and we have never paid special attention to it." Zhou Xiaochuan's words were an open snub to efforts, led by the French Finance minister, Christine Lagarde, to reach a consensus even on the "indicators" by which these imbalances would be measured – let alone to secure concrete action by Beijing to revalue the Chinese yuan and switch growth away from exports to the West.

Mr Zhou's blunt language suggests both a more assertive Chinese attitude, and that the talks might even go backwards from the commitment made at the November G20 Leaders' Summit in Seoul to move to more "market-oriented" exchange rates – code for an appreciation of the yuan. Since then, the US Federal Reserve's $600bn of quantitative easing has begun, directly injecting money into the American economy, with the indirect aim of pushing the dollar down. The Fed's policy represents the first shot in a potentially disastrous "currency war" between the US and China. Peace seems unlikely to break out between the "G2" in Paris.

Ahead of the talks, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, who is attending alongside the Chancellor, George Osborne, issued a stark warning: "All the main players around the world are rationally pursuing their own self-interest. But the financial crisis has revealed that what makes sense for each player individually does not always make sense in aggregate.

"Many policies, in addition to changes in exchange rates, will be needed to reduce imbalances. If agreement is not reached, at best there will be a weak world recovery; at worst, the seeds of the next financial crisis will be sown."

There had been some optimism that having a major economic power such as France driving the G20's discussions would lead to more action than under last year's South Korean leadership. Yet even Mrs Lagarde stressed the modesty of their goals and the two-year timescale envisaged for action: "Once we have these indicators, and that's highly debated at the moment and will be in the next couple of days... then we will move on to agree on guidelines".

The proposed indicators comprise: exchange rates; currency reserves; public debt and deficits; private savings; and, crucially, trade balances. Yoshihiko Noda, for Japan, said: "It is uncertain whether the countries will agree on all indicators, but I think agreement on some is possible." Yet a German source made clear that Wolfgang Schäuble, the Finance minister, would want five or nothing. Caps on current-account trade balances were proposed by the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, last year and rejected by China.

There is also scepticism that President Sarkozy, hosting the talks, will persuade others to reach an accord on limiting commodity prices and imposing tougher rules on the big banks.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?