Minimal Progress Made as G20 Talks Close

Divisive issues of growth imbalances and currency manipulation delayed until next year

Leaders of the countries that comprise the Group of 20 industrial and developing economies delayed until next year any action to address trade and growth imbalances among its members.

The Wall Street Journalreports the delay in defining the external imbalances they previously vowed to address represents a blurring of what at first had appeared to be clear goals designed to counter the growing threat of trade and currency wars.

The U.S. and G-20 host South Korea ran into strong opposition from such exporting powers as China and Germany to a proposal to quantify limits on current-account surpluses and deficits.

The Journal notes that at the heart of the controversy are fundamental issues of how countries would need to restructure their economies.

"These are not going to be easy issues to resolve," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "But I think we've got everyone talking the same language, everyone understanding longer-term what has to be done."

Closer to home, financial industry advocacy groups took a cautiously optimistic tone over the meeting’s results. A statement released today by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) read in part:

"G20 countries have made great strides toward implementing the reforms previously agreed to by the leaders. The continuing work of the G20, the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee will help strengthen the global financial system and the hundreds of millions of businesses and families it serves. Global regulators must be careful, however, not to pursue policies that would actually undermine economic growth and a strong financial system.

"SIFMA welcomes the G20’s call for countries to continue implementing regulatory reforms in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. While some countries have made great strides toward enacting those reforms, it will be vitally important to ensure that reforms are implemented in a coordinated fashion on a global level. Regulatory mismatch could lead to arbitrage and ultimately undermine the safety and soundness of the financial system. We urge the G20 to continue to monitor the pace and reach of these reforms as they progress."

The G-20 leaders will aim for a leaders' summit late next year to develop an imbalance assessment, with help from the International Monetary Fund.

The group also endorsed a timetable for a drastic overhaul of the framework for dealing with globally systemically important global banks, to ensure the taxpayer is never again left to foot the bill if "too big to fail" banks get into trouble. And it vowed to complete an ambitious trade deal, calling 2011 a "critical window of opportunity" for the Doha round of global trade talks.

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