March 2, 2020 / 5:05 PM / a month ago

U.S.' Mnuchin, Powell to lead G7 finance call on coronavirus response

ROME/PARIS (Reuters) - G7 finance ministers and central bank governors will hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss measures to deal with the widening coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact, a U.S. Treasury spokeswoman said on Monday.

The call, to be led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, is planned for Tuesday morning, said spokeswoman Rebecca Miller.

The meeting comes as futures markets are betting that the Fed will deliver a big dose of stimulus to shield the U.S. economy from the disease’s impact.

French and Italian sources familiar with the G7 arrangements said the call was scheduled for 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT), 2-1/2 hours before U.S. stock markets open.

The outbreak is plunging the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Monday, urging governments and central banks to fight back to avoid an even steeper slump.

Shortly after Tuesday’s call, Mnuchin is due to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget. The Trump administration has asked Congress for an extra $2.5 billion in funding to fight the coronavirus.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank said on Monday they stand ready to help member countries deal with the coronavirus outbreak, including through emergency funding.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that G7 countries will take “concerted action” to limit the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on economic growth and their finance ministers will discuss by phone this week how best to act.

“There will be a concerted action. Yesterday I spoke with the G7 president, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and this week we will have a meeting by phone of the finance G7 ministers to coordinate our responses,” Le Maire told France 2 television.

Le Maire said the impact from the coronavirus outbreak on French growth “will be much more significant” than his earlier predictions of it shaving 0.1 percentage point from 2020 output growth. He reiterated that the hotel, restaurant, air transport and event industries were the worst hit sectors in France.

After a meeting with Le Maire on Monday, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the two countries were monitoring the spread of the virus closely and “will take decisive action if necessary.”

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, David Lawder and Andrea Shalal in Washington and Leigh Thomas in Paris; editing by Andrew Heavens, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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