Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

World leaders and media on G20

g20 graphic

On 2 April, world leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) countries will meet in London to discuss measures aimed at reviving the global economy.

The summit follows a meeting on 14 March where G20 finance ministers pledged to take all necessary measures to spur economic growth and repair the global financial system.

The following is a round-up of official views and media comment in the run-up to the 2 April summit, selected from sources available to BBC Monitoring as of 24 March 2009.


The steep decline in world trade that has resulted from the global downturn continues to have a serious impact on Asia's big export-driven economies. In the run-up to the G20 summit, the Asian focus has centred on a number of themes. Key among them are getting agreement on the need to avoid protectionism; the need for financial stimulus measures; and securing a bigger role and voice for developing countries in international financial institutions such as the IMF.


China's leaders have said they would like to see a more regulated global financial system in which China will have a more prominent place. "We have an even greater need for more financial regulation to ensure financial stability," Premier Wen Jiabao told a news conference on 13 March. He was speaking as the National People's Congress closed its annual session, Xinhua news agency reported.

World leaders will meet next week in London to discuss measures to tackle the downturn. See our in-depth guide to the G20 summit.
The G20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.

Wen said China will deliver on its promise of 8 per cent growth in 2009 despite a collapse in Western demand for Asian goods, and could roll out extra stimulus spending if needed to meet that goal. "We have prepared enough 'ammunition' and we can launch new economic stimulus policies at any time," he added. Wen said assistance to the least developed countries should be among top concerns of the G20 meeting in London, and he stressed China's adherence to the Millennium Development Goals.

The G20 summit should boost confidence, improve policy coordination and fight protectionism, Xinhua quoted Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi as saying. "The magic word is confidence," Yang said. "I hope the G20 meeting will boost people's confidence."

China's Finance Minister Xie Xuren said on 16 March that the G20 finance ministers' meeting had sent "positive signals" to world markets because participants agreed to "strengthen coordination of macroeconomic policy" in order to "restore market confidence as soon as possible." Xie also echoed Wen Jiabao's comments calling for reform of international financial organizations to ensure they "pay close attention" to the interests of developing countries, so that they have "greater representation" and a "bigger say" in international financial policy, according to Xinhua.

In what could be seen as a sign of China's growing assertiveness ahead of the summit, China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan on 24 March called for the creation of a new, global reserve currency not linked to any individual country. Zhou wrote on the bank's website that the goal is to stabilise the international economic system by creating a system not easily influenced by the policies of individual countries. The move was widely interpreted as a plea to switch away from the US dollar.

Chinese media have given extensive coverage to the preparations for the summit, highlighting what they see as an opportunity for China and other major developing countries to acquire a greater role in international financial bodies.

In a typical commentary, Beijing-based Chinese Communist Party newspaper Guangming Ribao on 16 March said "the US and Europe hope that China, which has the world's largest foreign-exchange reserves, can make a contribution to the International Monetary Fund. However, China's right to vote at the IMF is less than 4 per cent... Therefore, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), including China, are entirely justified in seeking to reform the IMF and setting a clear timetable and road map for reform".

The Beijing-based newspaper Xin Jing Bao on 16 March saw the summit as "Europe and America's 'diplomatic war' with the vast majority of emerging economies and developing countries." It urged the Chinese government "to continue to join forces with emerging economies, exploit the differences between Europe and the US on economic policy."

Hong Kong's popular Oriental Daily News said that "the secret battle between countries will be fiercer and the fighting more ruthless". The paper on 16 March urged China to "strive for its due place and its due right to speak". "China must indicate its stance to the US and Europe, and clearly demand that the other parties abolish trade protectionism against China. China's markets are open to them, and they must also open up to China. China must not lose its chance again," it said.

Beijing's China Daily on 14 March urged "necessary reforms to reflect the new global reality... Unfortunately, the current quotas, which the IMF set, still reflects an outdated past. Piecemeal reforms are simply not enough given the scale of the current challenges. Only when the Fund is reformed promptly to represent the reality can it timely adapt itself to the new task".


India will ask the developed world to refrain from protectionist policies at the 2 April summit. "Job losses in the country due to the global meltdown is a concern for the government. India will raise the issue at the G20 summit that developed countries should not resort to protectionist policies," Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said, quoted by the Times of India on 15 March. Mukherjee played down fears about a heavy contraction in industrial output, saying the government had announced stimulus packages which would take two to three months to be be felt. Mukherjee has expressed particular concern about the impact of the global downturn on India's IT industry, Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported on 28 February. Another report by PTI on 18 March said India "is expected to make a strong pitch at the G20 meeting in London to stop attempts by big economies to further protectionism to ward off the threat posed by the financial crisis." It quoted unspecified "sources" as saying India is also expected to get a stake in the Basel Committee on banking supervision and the Financial Stability Forum (FSF), set up by the G7 countries.

The so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) issued a joint communique at the G20 finance ministers' meeting on 14 March calling for more lending to emerging economies hit by the collapse of private capital and for urgent reforms to improve their representation at the International Monetary Fund. The four countries met as a group for the first time at the G20 finance ministers' annual meeting in Brazil last November to call for a greater say in world affairs and the global economy.

Indian media have expressed mixed views on the outcome of the G20 finance ministers' meeting held in the UK on 14 March, and the prospects for the 2 April summit. A commentary in New Delhi's The Financial Express on 17 March called the UK meeting "rather successful". The top economic officials from the G-20 "emerged at the end of the weekend presenting a united front in the battle against the global downturn. This was no small achievement, given the rumoured differences... The ministers did okay, now it's up to the heads of government to do more confidence boosting in April," it added.

But in the view of the New Delhi Business Standard Online the "finance ministers of the G20 who met in West Sussex last week failed to offer a roadmap. Ironically, even as they were debating this, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent out conflicting signals on how to revive the sinking global economy. The politics of recovery is becoming murkier by the day, within each country and more importantly, among nations." The Indian Express Online on 18 March meanwhile expressed fear that the G20 is likely to turn into G2 consisting of the US and China. It said "the Chinese communists are determined to lock Obama in an embrace that he can't wriggle out of". "Although the meeting involves leaders of 20 nations, including India, for all practical purposes it is likely to unveil the formation of a "Group of Two" - the United States and China. For both Washington and Beijing, the G20 might be a sideshow in comparison to the attractions of setting up a G2. India will have to find ways to cope with the potential consequences of a G2," the paper said.


Japan has promised to unveil new economic stimulus measures by April. Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano believes that the immediate issues are to stabilize the financial system and to tackle the deflationary threat facing the world economy, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on 16 March.


Australian PM Kevin Rudd
PM Kevin Rudd will push China to have a more central role in the IMF

Australian Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has said Australia will make a big contribution as the country has a lot to bring to the table. "The economic outlook is pretty grim and that's why it was so encouraging to see 20 of the largest economies in the world come together, put aside differences and resolve to support a set of very responsible measures. We've got to do something about the financial system; we've got to reform our international financial institutions," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website quoted him as saying on 13 March.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper on 23 March, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the G20 summit will push for China to have a more central role in the International Monetary Fund.

Australian media have said they don't expect anything much from the London summit. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia would like "another special G20 summit - potentially in Asia - as part of a united push to ensure that global efforts to stem the fallout of the economic crisis are not just 'a one-day wonder'. However, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, rejected Australia's call for a single, international agreement to manage bad debt. He argued that different parts of the world needed flexibility to deal with their specific systems," the paper said on 14 March. "The Rudd Government revealed in a working paper this week that its priorities for the meeting include securing a commitment for a third leaders' summit this year, potentially with South Korea as host," the paper said.


Indonesia's Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said international financial institutions lacked credibility because they did not reflect the interests of all countries, Jakarta Media Indonesia Online (published by the Media Indonesia newspaper) said on 18 March. "In order to function as effectively as possible, international financial institutions and the International Monetary Fund must reform. We need to strengthen these organisations' management and ensure their policies reflect global economic developments," Mulyani was quoted as telling a press conference in Jakarta.

South Korea

South Korea has urged every effort to recover from the global financial crisis "as soon as possible", the country's Yonhap news agency said on 15 March. "International policy coordination is highly needed, since a delay in impaired assets resolution could further deepen the severity of the crisis," the agency quoted a Finance Ministry press release as saying. Finance Minister Yoon dismissed growing worries over the health of the nation's economy and emphasized that now is a "great chance" to invest in South Korean stocks and bonds, according to the press release.


Russia will be represented at the G20 summit by President Dmitriy Medvedev. Russia, like many other countries, has been hit hard by the world economic crisis. The rouble has lost 30 per cent of its value, salaries are falling, inflation is growing and an increasing number of people are losing their jobs. There have been local protests against the falling standards of living, but these have been sporadic and harshly dealt with. In preparation for the summit, Russia has announced sweeping proposals for global financial reforms.

Russia's proposals

A long document entitled "Russian Proposals to the London Summit" was posted on the Russian president's website on 16 March. It said that the current global financial crisis "is a result of the collapse of the existing financial system due to poor management".

"The current crisis has demonstrated the need to abandon traditional approaches and adopt collective and internationally agreed decisions aimed essentially at developing a globalization process management system," it said.

"The obsolescent unipolar world economic order should be replaced by a system based on the interaction of several major centres", it added, clearly signalling a wish to curb the USA's economic dominance.

The document contains five principles on which a "New International Financial Architecture" should be based: compatibility of activities and standards of national and international regulatory institutions; democracy and equal responsibility for decision-making; efficiency through legitimacy of international coordination mechanisms; transparency of all participants' activities; and fair risks distribution.

It also puts forward proposals in eight concrete areas for the G20 to consider, including reform of the international monetary and financial system, reform of the system's institutions and tightening international regulation and financial supervision.

One of the most radical ideas contained in the document is for the introduction of a supranational reserve currency, to be issued by international financial institutions. This idea appears to have been given some support by a similar proposal by China's central bank governor, put forward on 23 March.

Medvedev calls for "fairness"

In an interview with Russian state-controlled Channel One television on 14 March, President Dmitriy Medvedev spoke about the need to reform international financial institutions to create a "fairer structure of the world financial system", and the need to monitor the macroeconomic indicators of major economies to prevent future world crises.

Asked about Russia's expectations from the G20 summit, Medvedev said the priorities would be "stabilizing the situation in the financial sector" and "measures aimed at creating a modern financial architecture".

"Therefore, this activity should be regulated, what's more, it should be made fairer for states that have recently joined the category of the largest economies, developing economies. I mean in this case Russia and other countries with which we are cooperating in this regard," he said.

"I hope this position will evoke a response from our partners during my visit to London for the summit of the 20 largest economies¿Because otherwise we will encounter problems of this kind, if not every year, then certainly once every 10-15 years," Medvedev added.

Similar statements have been made by other high-ranking Russian officials.

Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, speaking after the G20 finance ministers' meeting in the UK on 13 March, declared himself pleased with the outcome of the meeting. "The main result is that there are real, serious steps to overcome the crisis in various areas, above all for assessing priorities in fighting the crisis," he said in an interview with Vesti TV.

Media comment

Commenting on the Russian proposals for the G20 summit, Russian television has placed the main emphasis on Russia's call for the introduction of a supranational reserve currency. For example, the state-owned Rossiya TV carried a lengthy piece talking up Russia's proposals and assailing the USA's past policies.

"Moscow knows how to combat the world crisis. Instead of the dollar, a reserve super-currency; instead of the old IMF, a new one," Rossiya TV proclaimed in the headlines section of its "Vesti" primetime bulletin.

The report stressed the significance of Russia's proposals. "These are not merely measures to overcome the global crisis. This, in essence, is the framework of the world's new financial architecture, which, in Moscow's view, requires, as a minimum, abandoning the unipolar model of the world economy and ensuring the absolute transparency of the markets," Rossiya said.

It went on to blame the United States for causing the global crisis: "Thirty-eight years ago the USA decided to peg the dollar, not to its gold reserves, but to the world economy and allowed the printing press to operate without control, at maximum capacity."

Similar views were expressed by the pro-government daily Izvestiya. Moscow is pinning not only economic but also political hopes on the G20 summit, it said. "The unipolarity, which Russia has been consistently and not without success trying to overcome in politics, started breaking up in economics as well," the paper said. "The USA is interested in quick-fixing the system which is falling apart at the seams and finding mechanisms which would make everybody toe the line. However, Moscow's intentions are more radical. The question is whether Russia will be able to find understanding among its Western and Asian partners," the paper said.

On the whole, the Russian official media seem cautious about whether the G20 summit will have a significant positive effect on the global economic situation. The government-owned Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote on 16 March: "Let us be realistic and admit that it is virtually impossible to expect 20 states to agree on any important matter, especially when it affects their wallets."

Commentators in the more independent Russian media have been more forthright in voicing scepticism about the prospects for the summit. For example, The liberal daily Vremya Novostey said that the meeting of the G20 finance ministers in the UK on 13-14 March "confirmed that the G20 summit should raise only very modest expectations."


European leaders and media want the G20 summit in London on 2 April to result in concrete and far-reaching reforms concerning international financial regulation, but there is scepticism over whether this will be achievable in the light of disagreements between some of the countries involved. The main concern voiced in the media is that the US and possibly Britain may not be as keen on a strict regulatory framework as France and Germany, thus preventing agreement on decisive action. At a European Union summit which ended on 20 March, EU leaders pledged more than 130 bn dollars in extra support for the International Monetary Fund and eastern European member states facing economic difficulties. But they resisted US pressure to further increase public spending, and reiterated their view that the priority should be tighter financial regulation.

France and Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Germany and France are determined to obtain "concrete results"

France , which has been one of the driving forces behind the idea of tackling the international financial and economic crisis in a forum such as the G20, has consistently called for radical reforms of the international financial system.

In a speech given on 23 October, a month after President Nicolas Sarkozy first proposed a meeting of world leaders to reflect on the lessons to be learnt from the financial crisis, the French president urged "a new global political, economic and social order, based on new principles and new rules". The task, he said in remarks broadcast by French La Chaine Info TV, was to "overhaul global capitalism by giving the chief role back to entrepreneurs and workers, and no longer to speculators".

Proposals France defended ahead of the previous G20 summit on 15 November concerned the supervision and transparency of all financial institutions; the accountability of managers and administrators; a remuneration system which does not favour excessive risk-taking; credit rating agencies; tax havens and off-shore centres; hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds; and an enhanced role for the IMF.

This agenda has changed very little since. On 17 March, Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel published a letter in which they said they were determined to obtain "concrete results" regarding the oversight of hedge funds, penalties imposed on "uncooperative authorities", and pay policies at the 2 April summit (French news agency AFP) In a foreign policy speech delivered on the same day, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon listed "regulation of hedge funds, regulation of credit ratings agencies, guidelines for remuneration, reform of accounting standards and the fight against off-shore centres" as key concerns (France 24 TV).

And at a news conference given at the end of a Franco-German summit in Berlin on 12 March, Sarkozy made it clear that he regards the forthcoming G20 summit as a "historic meeting" where "very strong decisions must be taken" (France 24 TV).

Germany's key demands ahead of the G20 meeting are similar to those expressed in France. At the end of the 12 March Franco-German summit, Merkel said the two countries had "completely identical positions" regarding the regulation and transparency of financial markets and would launch a joint initiative before the G20 meeting. She also reaffirmed the need to draw up a list of tax havens, while a joint statement said "all hedge funds and other private capital pools which could pose a systemic risk" should be "subjected to appropriate regulation and supervision" (German ddp news agency).

On 13 March, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told the Handelsblatt business daily that he wanted G20 finance ministers to agree to "comprehensive regulation of financial markets" to make sure that "no financial market, no financial product and no financial market player" is left unsupervised or unregulated, echoing remarks he made on 3 March after a meeting with French Economy Christine Lagarde in Paris.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag on 19 March that Germany had spent more than its fair share to boost its economy and warned against a rush to enact new stimulus measures, as desired by the US.

"It is not time to look at more growth measures. I disagree with this idea completely. The existing measures must work, they must be allowed to develop," German news agencies quoted her as saying. "A competition to outdo each other with promises will not calm the situation," she added, describing transatlantic contradictions in response to the crisis as "very dangerous".

"We need to send good psychological signals from London and not engage in a competition for unrealisable growth packages. We have already done our part," Merkel said.

The French and German government positions have received broad backing in the media . An editorial in the centre-right Le Figaro daily newspaper published on 16 March urged agreement on "strict oversight and risk control rules" in the financial sector, and on 13 March a radio commentary on publicly-owned France Inter radio described the strengthening of international financial regulations championed by Sarkozy and Merkel as an "absolute necessity".

French media have also called on European politicians to resist US pressure to give priority to stimulus plans rather than reforming financial regulation. The headline of an editorial published by Le Figaro daily newspaper on 16 March urged Europe to "stand firm". France Inter radio warned that Britain's position was uncertain, too. According to the radio, "we don't really know what the Americans want, and even the British are divided", with the City of London trying to "counter its government's reform intentions".

Berlin also rejected US calls for a greater stimulus effort, and Germany's Handelsblatt business daily backed the government's position, warning against "opening the floodgates to indebtedness" (Handelsblatt website, 16 March).

Expectations of what the G20 summit may achieve have been relatively low in the French media in the light of signs of discord among G20 member states.

"With less than two weeks to go, the G20 summit seems to have got off to a bad start," said the French weekly magazine L'Express on its website on 16 March, pointing to disagreements between Europe and the United States, although "the worst was avoided" at the 14 March meeting of G20 finance ministers.

An editorial published on 16 March by French daily newspaper Le Figaro concurred that, in view of disagreements between the US and the EU, "it is still too early to say whether we should share the optimism that Angela Merkel showed in London on Saturday about the anticipated success of the G20 summit".


Italy is a G20 member, too, but has taken less of a prominent role in defining Europe's position ahead of the April summit. A report by Italy's La Stampa newspaper published on the paper's website on 20 February said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had agreed at a meeting in Rome that there was a division of labour between the two countries as the G7/G8 presidency holder and the host of the 2 April G20 summit, respectively. According to the paper, "it seems clear that setting out the new economic and financial world order will fall to the G20" and hence to Britain rather than Italy.

An article in the Il Giornale newspaper published on 5 March noted the "growing harmony" between Berlusconi and Sarkozy, including "a common reading of the principal issues" to be discussed in forums such as the G20 summit. And ahead of the 14 March meeting of G20 finance ministers in Britain, Italian Economy Minister Tremonti told the press that Europe had a "joint stance", while reiterating an Italian proposal for a "global legal standard" (Corriere della Sera daily newspaper website, 14 March).

On 26 February, Italian weekly L'Espresso described the notion that the G20 summit would bring decisive change as a "fairytale", adding that there is no sign "of real political willingness to rein in the skittish horse of financial capitalism, and even less to curb protectionist tendencies in the real economy".

Other countries

Spain is not a member of the G20 but has been invited to attend the 2 April summit. In an interview published on the website of Germany's Handelsblatt business daily on 12 March, Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said the Spanish system of supervising banks had worked very well during the current crisis and that Spain would be "able to contribute ideas and experiences on how to improve the global financial system".

The Czech Republic, which is the current holder of the EU presidency, has stressed the need for liberal and anti-protectionist economic policies. During a meeting of EU members of the G20 in Berlin, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek warned that "any expressions of protectionism may disrupt the integrity of the European market and cause further damage" (Czech EU presidency website, 23 February). In talks with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Topolanek "emphasized that global economic issues should not divert the European Union [either] from its concept of increasing competitiveness [or] from the ongoing liberalization of the single market" (Czech EU presidency website, 12 March).

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden and Portugal protested against a meeting held in Berlin in 22 February which brought together France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands to prepare for the G20 summit. Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said the "variable geometry" of this and other meetings was causing "a certain uneasiness" in some countries because "it weakens the necessary EU cohesion" (Portuguese newspaper Publico website, 23 February).

Central and eastern Europe

Some central and eastern European countries have warned against protectionism in the current crisis after France proposed measures to support the car industry on condition that production would not be moved abroad.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was reported as saying that he would not tolerate any manifestations of protectionism in the current crisis (Slovak SITA news agency website, 15 February); a Polish newspaper reported that Warsaw was seeking to forge a coalition of new EU countries over the issue because "the countries of the old EU are beginning to protect their own economies with increasing strength" (Nasz Dziennik daily newspaper website, 18 February); and the Czech Republic convened an informal EU summit for 1 March at which the need to avoid protectionist measures was to be "the main topic" (Czech EU presidency website, 23 February).

At the summit, France rejected the accusation of protectionism, and French television judged that the approval of France's amended plan by the European Commission "should make it possible to calm down a little this very heated debate, which it is true has divided Europe in recent weeks" (France 24 TV, 1 March).

More generally, all big European economic players officially reject protectionist policies: Italy's Berlusconi has said that "we must not fall into the temptation of protectionism" (Italian La Repubblica daily newspaper website, 23 February); Germany's Merkel intended to "proceed against protectionism" at the meeting of some EU states held in Berlin on 22 February to prepare for the G20, the German ddp news agency reported on 14 February; France's Sarkozy, too, has in the past spoken of "the dangerous temptation of protectionism" (speech on the economy, LCI TV, 23 October); and on 19 March the French Secretary of State in charge of external trade, Anne-Marie Idrac, said working against protectionism and coordinating economic policies was "definitely one of the challenges for the G20" (AFP).


The presidents of Brazil and Argentina have both called for an overhaul of the IMF that would give emerging nations more say in how it is run and reduce the conditions imposed on countries receiving loans. Brazil and Argentina have also reaffirmed their commitment to fighting protectionism. Mexico, however, has recently taken retaliatory tariff action against its powerful neighbour, the USA, in a dispute over the rights of Mexican truckers to carry goods across the border to US destinations.


Brazil has the biggest economy in Latin America and is the world's largest exporter of commodities such as chicken, orange juice and coffee. It is also part of the powerful BRIC group of emerging economies with Russia, China and India.

President Lula and key officials have emphasized that protectionism is a key obstacle to global financial recovery and have called for resuming the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

They have also said they will lead calls to reform the international financial system and to increase the influence of emerging economies in the IMF and other organizations.

President Lula, addressing business leaders and Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende at the Sao Paulo State Federation of Industries (FIESP) on 2 March, said that protectionism would only bring more "chaos" to the global economy and said that reopening the Doha Round was the best way to fight the financial crisis.

Brazil's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, stressed that protectionism was "not the road to take," according to a report in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo on 9 March.

At the FIESP meeting on 2 March, President Lula also said that the G20 must discuss new regulations and new roles for monitoring the world financial sector, including a larger role for emerging countries in the IMF and other organizations.

During his recent visit to Cairo, Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, told the Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA) on 4 March that he had informed Egyptian officials that Brazil would call for changing the voting system within the IMF and other organizations to give emerging countries greater influence.

Brazil's Central Bank President Henrique Meirelles said that one idea that he and other officials have proposed is to extend IMF credit lines for three years instead of the current three months, according to a report in the newspaper O Estado on 10 March.

He also said that he would recommend to Lula that Brazil should support the French and German proposal to end tax havens.


The governor of the Central Bank, Martin Redrado, has said that Argentina's agenda at the G20 leaders' summit contemplated three issues: the creation of a new global financial architecture, reform of the lending entities, especially the IMF, and the adoption of preventive measures to avoid new crises, according to a report in the newspaper La Nacion on 18 March.

He added that once the IMF's recapitalization has been defined, Argentina would request the creation of credit lines tied to "more objective and tangible conditions, such as debt ratios/GDP and fiscal surplus/GDP."

Argentine Finance Minister Carlos Fernandez, meanwhile, has demanded international strategies that place greater emphasis on developing countries' needs, urging the IMF and World Bank to adopt more flexible lending policies, according to a report in the financial daily Ambito Financiero on 14 March

A report in the newspaper La Nacion on 5 March said that Argentina was pushing for change at the IMF so the country "can obtain fresh resources to meet the external commitments it will have from 2011, which will exceed 15,000m dollars."

It quoted Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, saying Argentina will ask at the G20 for a "democratization of the multilateral lending agencies, increasing the participation of developing countries in decision making and eliminating conditionalities."


UK PM Gordon Brown with Mexican President Felipe Calderon
Many migrant workers from Mexico are affected by US unemployment

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Mexico on 9 March, he said at a joint news conference with President Felipe Calderon that the two countries "had a great similarity of views" on financial regulation and they would "try to defend common positions" at the G20 summit. However, no more details were given of what these positions might be.

More important for Mexico is the situation with its powerful neighbour and largest trading partner the USA. The Mexican economy is tied to the USA through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between the USA, Canada and Mexico, but the latest dispute between the two countries has sparked protectionist measures in Mexico that have seen import tariffs slapped on 90 US products in reprisal for the cancellation by the US Congress of a programme allowing Mexican trucks to operate in the USA.

The affected products include fruits, juices, wine and cleaning products and represent about 2bn dollars in US exports to Mexico.

The Mexican economy secretary, Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, announced the retaliatory measures on 16 March and defended them by calling the US action "mistaken, protectionist, and clearly in violation of the treaty."

An editorial in Mexican English-language daily The News on 17 March, said the Mexican measures did not "bode well for bilateral relations just under two months into the Obama administration" and said it hoped "cooler heads" would prevail.

Mexico is also affected by the unemployment situation in the USA as remittances back home to Mexico from migrant workers are a significant boost to GDP. According to a report quoted in the newspaper El Universal on 16 March, some Mexican states have seen a drop in remittances of 10 per cent and that "27.076bn dollars was sent back to the country in 2007, whereas in 2008 this declined to 25.145bn dollars."


South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa's largest economy and the continent's only member of the G20, has supported calls for a stimulus package for crisis-hit G20 countries, as a way of boosting demand for African exports. Others, including some of the continent's poorest countries such as Ethiopia and Liberia, seek increased direct aid for African countries. The G20 summit comes at a time when African states are threatened by social instability caused by high food prices, declining revenues from commodity exports and a fall in remittances from their nationals living in Western countries.

South Africa

South Africa is expected to side with the US and UK in pushing for bold fiscal stimulus packages for G20 member states.

The Pretoria government argues that South Africa can minimize the impact of the global recession by ensuring that its major trading partners receive the help they need so they can continue to import South African goods. Thus the country is likely to push for anti-protectionist measures as some crisis-hit countries seek to reduce spending on imports.

An editorial in the privately-owned South African Business Day newspaper on 16 March stated that "since Europe buys most of our exports, it's certainly in our interests that Europe's governments put bolder recovery packages in place, boosting demand for our exports".

This position echoes sentiments by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who supports the push by the US for a global recovery package that would see developed economies committing at least two per cent of their national income to stimulus packages.

South Africa is also expected to support calls by Gordon Brown that G20 countries honour their pledge to boost aid to Africa despite the recession.

The long-serving finance minister, Trevor Manuel, and the governor of the country's central bank, Tito Mboweni, represented the country at a pre-summit meeting on 14 March in the UK that resolved to mobilize international financial resources to help developing countries cope with the global recession. The meeting's closing statement stressed: "We are committed to helping emerging and developing economies to cope with the reversal in international capital flows. We recognize the urgent need to pursue all options for mobilizing International Financial Institution (IFI) resources and liquidity to finance countercyclical spending, bank recapitalization, infrastructure, trade finance, rollover risk and social support." ( news website, 14 March)

Pretoria's other priority is reform of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make them more "representative" of emerging economies. The Business Day editorial noted above said this issue "has long been close to South Africa's heart". The paper added that, "Not only does the G20 support it, but its members, presumably including the US, now even concede that the heads of those institutions must be selected on merit, instead of the traditional system in which a US citizen gets the bank and a European the fund".

Other countries

Comment in advance of the G20 summit has been patchy across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. For example, BBC Monitoring has seen little substantial comment from Nigeria, the continent's most populous country and one of the world's leading oil exporters.

Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi
Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi will be attending as current Nepad chairman

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi - who will be attending the G20 summit in his capacity as current chairman of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) - told the official Ethiopia News Agency (ENA) that Africa "should be given a real voice" in international financial dealings. In remarks published on 15 March, he said that these institutions should limit or put an end to conditionalities on Africa in resource flow. Meles emphasized the need for continued development aid to Africa despite the global economic crisis.

Uganda has come out strongly in support of a stimulus packages for crisis-hit industrialized countries as a means of dealing with the recession. Speaking before an IMF-hosted conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 14 March, Finance Minister Syda Bbumba said she supported an "immediate" stimulus funding, telling the French news agency AFP on 8 March that international financial institutions "need to extend short-term aid that can be dispensed quickly" to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete said on 11 March that the key message from African finance ministers to the G20 summit was for the industrialized nations to "keep their promise" for increased aid despite the recession. (, Oslo-based news website specializing in African affairs)

Botswana's finance minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, told Radio Botswana that Africa has been hardest hit by the global downturn, especially in the area of raw materials. In remarks broadcast on 16 March, he pledged to call for developed countries to inject more funds into the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank. Gaolathe said without a stimulus package, African countries would not meet their Millennium Development Goals.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has joined her voice to calls for emergency funding for African countries. Speaking at a meeting in London on 16 March in which more than 20 African leaders and ministers met Gordon Brown to present a joint African position before the G20 summit, she said a lack of funding could lead to a resurgence of conflicts in Africa. In widely reported remarks, the Liberian leader, whose own country was devastated by a civil war that ended in 2003, said it would be cheaper to fund African governments now rather than send peacekeeping forces later.


Saudi Arabia is the only Middle Eastern country that will take part in the G20 summit on 2 April in London. Saudi media have not indicated who will represent Saudi Arabia at the summit but King Abdallah attended the G20 meeting in Washington in November 2008. International news agencies reported on 15 March that US President Barack Obama had discussed in a telephone call with the Saudi monarch the global economic crisis and the G20 summit agenda.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Culture and Information Minister Abd al-Aziz Khawja said at the end of a cabinet meeting on 16 March attended by King Abdallah that the London summit was expected "to restore the direction of the global economy towards growth and to end its problems".

London-based Al-Hayat newspaper said on 6 March that the Kingdom would contribute to an international stimulus package of two trillion US dollars along with the EU, the USA, China, Britain and Japan.

Saudi media highlighted G20 envoy Lord Malloch-Brown's meetings with Saudi officials earlier this month. Saudi business daily Al-Iqtisadiyah quoted him on 9 March as saying that Saudi Arabia was "important in balancing the G20 group".

Speaking in London on 13 March, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf hoped the G20 summit would "reach its prescribed goals", Saudi news agency (SPA) reported.

Al-Assaf added that the "reduction of interest rates, provision of financial support for the banking sector and the creation of a clean supervisory environment" were factors that had safeguarded the Saudi economy in the face of the global downturn.

Following several interest rate reductions in 2008, the Saudi central bank injected around 6.9bn US dollars into local banks "to reduce lending costs and maintain local demand for credit", Al-Riyadh daily said on 6 March.

Saudi officials and commentators have praised the government's action to alleviate the impact on its economy. The Saudi finance minister said that the Saudi stimulus plan was aimed at the kingdom's growing non-oil economy, Saudi economic Al-Iqtisadiyah newspaper reported on 18 March.

Arab media

Pan-Arab TV channels have not been observed to debate the London summit. However, news reports in the run-up to the summit have been carried by Qatari Al-Jazeera and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya.

Arab newspapers have contained limited reaction to the forthcoming summit but there have been numerous factual news reports on the G20 finance ministers' meetings, the global financial crises and its impact on the region.

Stories run by Arab newspapers and TVs were either translated from foreign sources or derived from news agency material.

There has been little comment on what is expected from the London summit, and the only difference observed has been in how these stories were headlined.

A story published by Saudi Al-Iqtisadiyah business daily on 15 March said that G20 finance ministers and central banks' governors, who met in the UK on 14 March, had "agreed on using 'all weapons' to fight the crisis". In contrast, a headline published by London-based Al-Hayat's on 17 March read: "The preparation for the G20 summit flounders".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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