G20 bridges differences before key finance summit
G20 finance ministers vow to take "whatever action is necessary" on the world economic slowdown, after talks preparing for a London summit of world leaders on April 2.
Horsham -- Before a key summit on tackling the economic crisis, rich and emerging nations have agreed common ground on hiking IMF funds and stricter market regulation but remain split on stimulus measures.
G20 finance ministers on Saturday vowed to take "whatever action is necessary" on the world economic slowdown, after talks preparing for a London summit of world leaders on April 2.
They played down signs of division between the United States and Europe on how best to boost the global economy, insisting the road to the summit next month was smooth.
"We're prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure growth is restored and we're committed to do that for however long it takes," British finance minister Alistair Darling said Saturday after hosting the G20 talks.
"I believe that this does provide a very clear sense of direction."
The politicians managed to reach agreement on the need for an "urgent" and substantial funding boost for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), although a communique issued afterwards did not state a number.
They also agreed to some tougher regulation of the financial system.
But the meeting failed to reach consensus on a new stimulus package, despite controversial calls from the US, the world's largest economy, for coordinated international pump-priming in recent days.
US President Barack Obama, who will attend the London summit in April, denied there were divisions on how to tackle the financial crisis, deriding such a notion as a "phony" story drummed up by the media.
"I don't know where this notion has emerged that somehow there are sides developing with respect to the G20," Obama told reporters after meeting Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the White House.
Agreement on IMF funding came after the United States recently suggested that its lending capacity should be trebled to 750 billion dollars (580 billion euros).
European leaders want to double the figure to 500 billion dollars.
The G20 on Saturday stated its key priority was restoring bank lending to help ease the effects of the crisis.
But Germany and France are opposed to US calls for new stimulus, instead favouring tougher regulation to tackle the crisis.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she was "delighted" that the G20 was closer on agreeing tighter regulation of markets.
The United States, eurozone, Japan and Britain are all in recession as the global economy struggles to recover from the worldwide credit crunch that erupted in late 2007.
Commercial banks are lending less cash amid fears about their exposure to the collapsed US subprime property market.
Also Saturday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who will host the G20 summit, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked up the prospect of agreement on April 2.
"I'm very positive, I'm very optimistic that we will be able to... come to an agreement together with the United States, with emerging economies such as China and India," said Merkel after meeting Brown.
Brown, meanwhile, highlighted US support for changes in regulations for hedge funds and other "shadow banking" operations.
Highly speculative and lightly regulated hedge funds have been blamed for fuelling instability in financial markets.
Measures agreed at the G20 talks in Horsham, near London, included regulatory oversight of all credit agencies, blamed for being too slow to alert investors to high-risk instruments, as well as a need for "sufficient supervision and regulation of hedge funds."
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Saturday said there was unprecedented unity among the G20 on the economy, insisting: "The world is with us" when asked about stimulus.
"We are seeing the world move together at a speed and on a scale without precedent in modern times," he said. "We have a very broad basis consensus globally now on the need to act aggressively to restore growth."
The G20, whose members also include Canada, India, Italy, Russia and South Korea, also pledged Saturday to "fight all forms of protectionism and maintain open trade" and stressed commitment to helping developing economies.