Saturday, October 27, 2012
G20 to urge members to act against economic uncertainty
By Krista Hughes
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Group of 20 leading economies want financially troubled countries to make the most of safety nets, including Europe's bailout fund, to limit the uncertainty damaging the global economy, Mexican Deputy Finance Minister Gerardo Rodriguez said on Friday.
Mexico will host finance ministers and central bankers from the bloc of advanced and developing countries next weekend at a meeting that is expected to focus heavily on Europe's ongoing debt crisis, with Spain tipped as the next country to seek aid.
A deteriorating global outlook has put the focus on countries to boost growth, and a G20 official briefed on the preparations for the meeting said there was disquiet over what was seen as Spain's reluctance to ask for a full bailout.
Rodriguez declined to say directly whether Spain should ask for a financial rescue from its European partners but stressed that safety nets, such as Europe's 500 billion euro (401 billion pounds) bailout fund, were generally meant to be used.
"The G20 urges countries to take action to reduce the environment of uncertainty," he said, adding that uncertainty was costing jobs and growth.
One action could be using existing support facilities, and the G20 would support countries wanting to take advantage of available resources such as the European Stability Mechanism.
"The G20 has to show the market and the players that all this effort in setting up the famous firewalls has created firewalls which are effective, and to test that they are effective they need to be used," Rodriguez said.
Spain is under pressure to seek aid as it struggles to cope with high government debt. Europe has already set aside 100 billion euros to recapitalize banks, and euro zone sources said they expected an aid request next month.
If Spain were to apply for help from the European Stability Mechanism, that would allow the European Central Bank to step in with massive Spanish bond purchases on the secondary market and lower Madrid's borrowing costs.
Still, yields on Spanish bonds have fallen 2 percentage points in the last three months and it is also unclear whether fellow euro zone members would approve a request from Spain for aid from the ESM, given strong anti-bailout sentiment in countries like Germany and Finland.
Spain's economy minister, Luis de Guindos, will attend the G20 meeting on November 4 and 5 as a guest, along with officials from Chile, Colombia, Benin and Cambodia.
"This will be an opportunity to give everyone an update on what they are thinking and if they will make any decisions in the short term," Rodriguez said.
World finance leaders met just two weeks ago in Tokyo, where they urged Europe and the United States to tackle debt which threatens to stifle global growth.
The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global growth to 3.6 percent for 2013 and urged the United States to take steps to avoid a year-end fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts that could tip the country back into recession.
But Rodriguez said with U.S. presidential elections scheduled the day after the G20 meeting ends, there was unlikely to be fresh pressure for action.
"Markets have so far given the benefit of the doubt that it will resolve the challenge of the fiscal cliff adequately," he said. "Everyone is in wait-and-see mode, and we'll see after the elections how they can progress in talks with Congress."
Foreign exchange flexibility would also feature in the discussions, he said, as it was always an important subject for the G20.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish, Leslie Adler, Gary Hill)