G20 to focus on boosting global growth, not Crimea: official

Tue Apr 8, 2014 9:06pm EDT

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks at a news conference during the G20 Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers annual meeting in Sydney, February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks at a news conference during the G20 Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers annual meeting in Sydney, February 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

(Reuters) - Global financial leaders will thrash out details of individual country pledges to boost growth and overhaul their economies at this week's meetings in Washington, a senior Australian official said on Tuesday.

Group of 20 countries promised at their last meeting in Sydney in February to lift global output by an extra 2 percent over five years, with individual action plans due later this year.

Although geopolitical risks stemming from the crisis in Ukraine were also on the table, growth would take center stage, Australia's G20 Finance Deputy Barry Sterland said in a telephone interview.

"To build momentum on those growth strategies is really a key goal for this meeting," he said. "A big focus of this meeting is going to be building on that growth ambition, discussing the sorts of measures that are needed to meet the Sydney growth goal."

Australia chairs the bloc of advanced and developing economies this year and has asked for firm plans to address gaps in each country's policy settings in the second half of 2014.

According to a document prepared for the G20 by European Union finance ministers, reform drafts so far have fallen short and more ambitious work is needed in areas including investment, employment and competition.

The International Monetary Fund forecast global growth at 3.6 percent this year while warning of geopolitical risks amid a tug of war between Russia and Western countries over Ukraine.

Russia, also a G20 member, has been hit with EU and U.S. sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

G20 officials have said they expect the group's communiqué, to be issued after Friday's meeting, will not specifically mention the crisis in Ukraine.

Sterland said there would be a discussion of the "full range" of geopolitical risks, but noted that Ukraine had already been an issue at the last G20 just six weeks earlier, and there was no plan for joint action against Russia.

"That sort of theme would not be on the agenda for this meeting," Sterland said.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said it depends on G20 member countries whether Russia is invited to the G20 leaders' summit this year.

DEFLATION EYED

At Friday's meeting, emerging markets are again expected to raise concerns about spillover effects from central banks normalizing policy in advanced economies, a worry which featured prominently at the Sydney meetings.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is on track to wind up bond purchases by the end of this year as the U.S. economy recovers, although the European Central Bank is under pressure to do more to support growth.

The G20's February communiqué said that the timing of monetary policy withdrawal should be conditional on the outlook for price stability as well as growth - sounding a note of caution given the euro zone's extremely low inflation.

"Those comments in Sydney seem to remain appropriate. We are taking an approach to keep the communiqués relatively tight," Sterland said.

The ECB has so far resisted calls from the IMF to ease monetary policy further although it said last week it was ready to start asset purchases, also known as quantitative easing, if inflation proved persistently low.

A German government official said Germany planned to tell the IMF and G20 partners it sees no deflation tendencies in Europe, noting instead that low inflation came from lower energy prices and moderate wage hikes.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes in Washington and Cecile Lefort in Sydney; Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Lidia Kelly in Moscow and Gernot Heller in Berlin; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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