UPDATE 1-Geithner: G20 must go for growth, chides Europe, Japan

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TORONTO, June 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Saturday urged the Group of 20 to go for growth but chided Europe and Japan for excessive reliance on exports, while welcoming China’s move to free its currency.

“This summit must be fundamentally about growth. And our challenge, as the G-20, is that we all need to act to strengthen the prospects for growth,” Geithner said in a statement as leaders from advanced and emerging economies gathered for their meeting here.

He had warm words for China, which announced a week ago that it would loosen the peg between its yuan currency and the dollar, which the United States says gives Chinese exports an unfair advantage at the expense of U.S. jobs.

“This is an important step toward helping China better meet its own challenges and providing a more level playing field for all its trading partners,” he said of the yuan decision.

But he criticized Europe and Japan, who Washington thinks have escaped criticism for pro-export policies that generate large trade surpluses and also contribute to so-called global imbalances for which China receives most of the blame.

“This recovery now is led by very strong growth in the emerging economies and a solid expansion in the United States. Growth started somewhat later in Europe and Japan, is projected be somewhat slower, and is still excessively dependent on exports to the rest of the world,” he said.

Reporting by Alister Bull, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama