March 12, 2020 / 6:24 PM / 3 months ago

G7 vows continued cooperation on coronavirus; opts for virtual finmin meeting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Group of Seven rich nations on Thursday underscored their commitment to cooperate in tackling the fast-spreading coronavirus, the U.S. Treasury said, as panic triggered heavy losses on world financial markets.

“The G7 is in regular contact and committed to continued international cooperation to address the global health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” the Treasury said in a statement, referring to the disease that has killed 4,750 globally.

The U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, Brent McIntosh, held a call on Thursday with his counterparts from Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain to discuss COVID-19, it said.

The teleconference followed a call by G7 finance ministers and central bankers last week, at which they pledged to use “all appropriate policy tools” to respond to the economic and health crisis, and support economic growth.

Asia’s stocks were poised to plunge further on Friday after Wall Street’s Dow industrials index .DJI on Thursday suffered its largest daily decline since the 1987 Black Monday crash.

The rout accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump spooked investors on Wednesday with a move to restrict travel from Europe - a step that European Union officials said was not coordinated or notified by the White House.

The International Monetary Fund on Thursday urged member countries to coordinate their actions and exchange information about the pandemic, while focusing on “well-targeted and proportionate measures.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve last week cut interest rates, but European Central Bank held back on Thursday, disappointing traders who were hoping to see broader measures to blunt the impact of the virus on economic growth.

The Treasury also announced plans to hold the next meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors by video conference next month, instead of meeting in person in Philadelphia.

Trump on Wednesday banned most foreign nationals from three of the G7 industrial democracies - France, Germany and Italy - from entering the United States for the next month as part of sweeping curbs on travel from Europe.

The State Department on Wednesday likewise announced it was converting its March 24-25 G7 foreign ministers meeting in Pittsburgh to a video conference format.

The Treasury had not announced firm dates for the G7 finance meeting, which typically draws hundreds of government officials, journalists, and private sector executives from Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.

The G7 finance meeting was expected to occur shortly before the April 17-19 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington - gatherings which also have been converted to an online format due to the coronavirus.

Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O'Brien

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