TOKYO (Reuters) - The following are comments on Saturday from finance officials in Tokyo for the semiannual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
On ESM bonds:
”During a bilateral meeting, France’s (Finance Minister Pierre) Moscovici expressed gratitude for Japan’s purchase of EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) bonds, as this has contributed to financial stability in Europe. He told me that he expected Japan would continue to support and purchase ESM (European Stability Mechanism) bonds.
“I told him that we would consider purchasing ESM bonds from the standpoint of the need for Europe’s financial stability and efficient management of our foreign reserves special account, while examining the creditworthiness of ESM bonds and Europe’s own efforts.”
On the IMF meetings:
“It’s true that there are downside risks but I feel that the atmosphere of the meetings was not that pessimistic even though it was not optimistic. Participants were debating in a forward-looking manner in order to overcome the current difficulty and to create bright prospects for the future.”
“Japan and China must communicate with a comprehensive perspective. The substance of the discussions at the meetings was not affected by the absence of top officials, but of course it would’ve been better if they had come. As for diplomatic issues, we need to discuss from a broad perspective if there are opportunities to do so.”
On Japan’s economy:
“If downside risks subside, including the instability of the financial market and global economic slowdown due to the European sovereign debt crisis, we expect that Japan’s GDP will grow about 2 percent in fiscal 2012.”
“While we must keep a careful watch on the risk of the U.S. fiscal cliff, the greatest cause of concern is the debt and financial-sector problems in Europe. The negative spillover effects of such problems are starting to spread beyond Europe.”
“Europe needs to quickly implement all of the measures that have been agreed upon and announced to date.”
On Greek budget targets:
”On Greece, there is a process that has started. The troika is in Greece. We have seen that Greece was making important budgetary efforts.
“I think that everybody understands today the contagion risk that would entail an exit of Greece from the euro zone. If the troika reaches a deal with Greece on reforms, and if there is strong monitoring, then this would constitute a structural solution and we would be in a position to address this issue. But we could answer positively to (such a demand).”
On potential Spanish aid request:
“This is a sovereign decision ... Europe, if the moment comes, would be in a position to answer to a Spanish aid request. We want these (Greek and Spanish) situations to find a suitable and stable resolution in the next few weeks. It is possible to move quickly. We’re working on it.”
“We were in a situation three months ago when uncertainty peaked. The situation has significantly improved, and (the ECB bond purchase program) has contributed significantly, but this window of opportunity must be seized.”
On the franc:
“The monetary policy with a currency cap is the right monetary policy for now. We will also pursue this policy with full determination in future. The franc remains ... with a value in the region of 1.20 (to the euro) a very strong currency. You could call it an overvalued currency if you wanted.”
“Market sentiment has improved (since the ECB announcement of potential bond purchases), and that has taken some pressure off the franc.”
On the yen and Japan’s monetary easing:
“Europe is faced with a lot of uncertainty and this uncertainty created safe-haven flows. That’s why the yen and the Swiss franc appreciated. This affected (the) corporate mind and exporters, which is why we strengthened monetary easing.”
”The BOJ is taking into consideration the effect of yen appreciation on the economy and price developments. Especially after the European debt crisis, the yen tended to appreciate because of its safe-haven status. To the extent that uncertainty is created, the yen tends to appreciate.
“This appreciation of the yen is affecting the sentiment and profits of exporters. But this is one of the elements that affect the economy. We’re not looking at exchange rates alone, we’re looking at various data, and one ... is exchange rates. The yen’s appreciation is affecting Japan’s economy and that’s why the BOJ has been easing in the past few years.”
“There’s a general condition of uncertainty, of tension (in the economy). The main cause is the high debt of developed nations - as it was, it still is. ... So there are no positive factors for us to focus on.”
“We also worry about the unknown situation with liquidity (quantitative easing)... Everything is getting done, from my perspective, blindly, without regard to the consequences it could have.”
“For now, this excess liquidity is not contributing to inflation, but it could happen at some point ... and it could be a very serious situation.”
On Europe and the pace of reforms:
“You could compare manipulating the economy to a supertanker. If you decide to turn it in one direction, it happens very slowly. Europe has the additional problem of having 17 captains. So any decision to change course has to be discussed with everyone.”
On fiscal adjustments:
”There has been a lot of attention in the last few days to the issue of fiscal adjustment. In reality, what sometimes has been presented as disagreement is more about perception than reality.
“We all recognize that credible, medium-term fiscal adjustments are necessary in all advanced economies. The pace and type of measures obviously need to be calibrated on a country-by-country basis.”
“We might not always agree on everything, but I think there is a general consensus that collective action is going to produce results.”
On economic stagnation:
”It has been going on for a little while and it’s not the end of it ... Advanced economies have to do quite a lot of work, fiscal consolidation, structural reforms, making sure they sort out their health in many ways.
“The emerging market economies are slowing down, but they certainly have a lot of potential ahead ... A lot of the heavy duty work lies at the advanced economies at the moment. It’s for advanced economies to do a lot now.”
On ECB bank supervision:
“It is very important that the ... regulation enters into force on January 1, 2013, but that does not mean that the supervision will be in place from January 1 from an operational point of view.”
“It is very important that we have this institutional step done by January 1, so we can prepare ourselves to run the supervision and make it operational, but this may well take another year. We think that by January 2014 the new framework will be in place and operational.”
On the euro zone economy:
”The situation remains challenging but there are signs of prudent optimism. It remains challenging because if you look at growth the first quarter was zero, the second quarter was -0.2 percent, third quarter looks poised to be weak and very likely the economic activity will bottom out at a low level ... and the recovery next year will be slow and sluggish.
“On the inflation front the risks are broadly balanced.”
On reasons for optimism on the euro zone’s crisis:
“First is the degree of the fiscal response by all countries concerned, especially what we call vulnerable countries, has been very significant, especially when we compare this response with what’s happening in other parts of the world, namely in the U.S. and the UK...”
“The second reason for being relatively positive is that the European banks have shown to be pretty resilient. The most recent figures ... show that the euro area banks have raised some 200 billion euros of capital, so recapitalization is making progress. Also the leverage ratio has gone down and all in all the credit flows for the average of the area are about the same as they were in 2008.”
“Third reason for being positive is that if we compare the governance of the euro area with what it was until, I would say, six months ago, an enormous progress has been achieved especially starting after the June summit.”
“Finally, in the last three months financial markets seem to be less volatile -- this is probably also due to new measures announced by the (ECB) Governing Council, the OMT, but also because the progress at the national level and the European level is being acknowledged.”
On Europe and United States:
“It was reassuring that European colleagues outlined their program of reform. But I think from my perspective it will be good to see that happen as quickly as possible because the recession in Europe as well as very tepid growth in the United States is putting pressure on growth elsewhere in the global economy, including in my region of Asia.”
“I don’t think anybody underestimates the challenges that we’ve got in the global economy, and I think what’s most important is that people are reassured that the steps that are being taken in Europe as well as in the United States will lead to strengthening of growth elsewhere in the global economy.”
”Global growth has decelerated and substantial uncertainties and downside risks remain.
”Key policy steps have been announced, but effective and timely implementation is critical to rebuild confidence. We need to act decisively to break negative feedback loops and restore the global economy to a path of strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
“Advanced economies should deliver the necessary structural reforms and implement credible fiscal plans. Emerging market economies should preserve or use policy flexibility as appropriate to facilitate a response to adverse shocks and support growth.”
“IMFC members all agree that we are in a better position than we were six months ago, a better position with regard to the policy footing, of getting (growth) started and achieving fiscal consolidation in the advanced economies ... We’re in a better position as far as our policy footing is concerned.”
On overcoming debt crisis:
“The main obstacle is you have to find solutions between European institutions and 17 national governments and most of these government’s need approval of parliament in advance ... It’s not fit for markets, that’s true, but if we are not fast enough for markets, sorry but markets have to wait.”
On looking over the medium- to long-term
“At this meeting the view has been strengthened that, especially for the advanced countries, sustainable growth is more important than short-sighted manipulation.”
“We did agree that, in the mid-term, reduction of debt is completely essential.”
“You can be flexible on the first debt-reduction steps, but even when the way is a long one, you must not artificially change direction ... These remarks have nothing to do with the Greek program.”
On China’s economic policy:
“In the face of uncertainty in the global recovery, China will continue to implement proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy, with pre-emptive and flexible policy adjustment.”
“The Chinese economy is expected to maintain steady growth in the second half of the year and to continue to sustain its relatively strong growth momentum in the medium and long term.”
On economic outlook:
“Our central scenario remains that of a mild recession in 2012, followed by a subdued recovery in both the EU and euro area. In 2013, moderate economic growth is expected, but the weaker second half of this year implies that a sizeable negative carry-over into 2013 will first have to be worked out.”
On fiscal policies:
“As the global economic situation seems to be losing momentum again, should macroeconomic conditions deteriorate further, member states with more fiscal space should let the automatic stabilizers play along the adjustment path assessed in structural terms and stand ready to review the pace of consolidation. In this connection, the composition of government expenditure and revenues should reflect the growth impact of spending items and revenue sources. In particular, available budgetary margins should be used to foster public investment in the euro area. However, given their particular situation, member states benefiting from a financial assistance program should stick to the targets as agreed in the program and should fully and timely implement the policy measures, including in particular structural reforms, agreed in the respective Memorandum of Understanding.”
On global economy:
“Although the world economy is expanding and progress has been made since the peak of the crisis, we still face a complicated mix of challenges to achieving stronger global economic growth.”
“Europe is making progress on outlining a road map toward banking union, which is a critical step to ensuring a sustainable long-term framework. This broad framework offers a more promising strategy for addressing the crisis. However, what is important is how it will be applied in practice.”
“As China’s slowdown in response to weak export demand highlights, domestic consumption still does not play a sufficient role in driving China’s economy. Progress toward strengthening domestic demand will be good for China, and good for the global economy.”
Reporting by Reuters' IMF and World Bank reporting team