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G20 will seek to smooth economic shock waves from China
[PARIS] World finance ministers gather in Turkey this weekend confronted by slowing growth in China, tanking emerging economies and panicked global stock markets.
And with looming US interest rate hikes adding to the uncertainty and concern, finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 nations will be meeting in Ankara under dramatically changed circumstances than when they last huddled in April.
After those talks, policymakers from the world's biggest advanced and emerging economies spoke optimistically about the risks to a global recovery having diminished.
This weekend, the G20 word out of Ankara is expected to be more subdued.
Signs that China's economy - the world's second-largest - is slowing more than expected has panicked stock markets, pushed commodity prices to fresh lows, seen a rout in emerging market currencies and thrown into question a US interest rate rise previously expected in September.
This week International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde conceded global economic growth will likely be weaker in 2015 than the 3.3 per cent estimate the IMF made just two months ago, due in part to fallout from China's slowdown."What has been demonstrated in the last few weeks is how much Asia is at the core of global economy, and how much disruptions occurring in one market in Asia can actually spill over to the rest of the world," she said.
Whether China can manage a soft landing after years of explosive economic growth will be at the heart of G20 talks.
One Western government official said China's enormous reserves and determination to ease its economy from reliance on state investment and exports to increased domestic consumer spending should be sufficient to overcome its current troubles."The Chinese economy has the means to confront its economic slowing in the near-term," said a Western governmental source, who acknowledged the "real question is the one of switching to a more sustainable development model".
Andrew Kenningham, senior economist at Capital Economics in London, says some of the reaction to China's slowing has been over-blown anyway."For China we don't think the outlook is nearly as bad as many people are suggesting. We could even see some re-acceleration of growth in the second half of this year, partly because of policy stimulus," he said."If you look forward China is then likely to continue slowing but at a relatively gradual pace and a pace that should not cause too many problems for the rest of the world." Not all observers are as optimistic, however, and calls have multiplied for Beijing to step up efforts to address the panic.
The US has appealed to China to be more transparent to financial markets, especially concerning the "actions and objectives" of its economic policies, a senior official with the US Treasury said."It's important for communication to be clear and effective across a range of issues, be they related to growth, financial markets and so forth." But China isn't alone in encountering problems. The US has produced mixed economic data, French growth has again stalled, and both Canada and Brazil have entered recession - leaving the G20 with few members in a position to crow in Ankara.
Even surging Germany will avoid any swagger that might generate renewed criticism from partners about its huge trade surpluses.
Given that context, messages from gathering G20 officials will likely seek to be more reassuring than resounding."I am convinced that the recent market developments - which are not yet over - are not the sort to destabilise the European economy," European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Tuesday in a preview of the expected G20 tone.
Sebastien Jean, director of the CEPII economic research institute says one focus of the meeting should to clearly differentiate market panic about China from effective action that must be taken to address the situation."There's been a lot of over-interpretation, so it will be important for G20 leaders to reaffirm their determination to coordinate" action, Mr Jean said.
Concerted action is even more important amid what Mr Jean calls "the really sensitive moment" of the US preparing to raise interest rates after years at rock-bottom levels.
The consequence that domestic monetary policy adjustments can have internationally is a critical issue that must be deliberated at the G20 level, a European governmental source says, rather than exclusively determined on the basis of national priorities.
In 2013, for example, the mere mention of rate increases by the Federal Reserve was enough to rock emerging markets that suffered flights of investment funds toward more lucrative US returns.
That response by investors has already begun awaiting US rate hikes - further slowing emerging economies that had been motors of global growth in recent years."It is a bit of a mixed picture but there is no doubt emerging economies are growing as a whole much slower than they were several years ago," said Mr Kenningham.