G-20 world needs to look beyond ultra-easy policy
The world's top economies declared on late Saturday that they need to look beyond ultra-low interest rates and printing money to shake the global economy out of its torpor, while renewing their focus on structural reform to spark activity.
A communique from the Group of 20 ( G20) finance ministers and central bankers flagged a series of risks to world growth, including volatile capital flows, a sharp fall in commodity prices and the potential "shock" of a British exit from the EU. "The global recovery continues, but it remains uneven and falls short of our ambition for strong, sustainable and balanced growth," said the communique, issued at the end of a two-day meeting in Shanghai.
"Monetary policies will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability ... but monetary policy alone cannot lead to balanced growth." Faltering growth and market turbulence have exacerbated policy frictions between major economies in recent months, and the statement also noted concerns over escalating geopolitical tensions and Europe's refugee crisis. The reference to "Brexit" had not been included in earlier versions of the text, according a senior official who had seen various drafts, but was added after British officials pressed for it.
Britons will vote in June 23 referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. "Our view is that it's in the national security and economic security of the United Kingdom, of Europe and of the United States for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union," U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said after the meeting.
The G20 ministers agreed to use "all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - individually and collectively" to reach the group's economic goals. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said she sensed renewed urgency among the group's members for collective action, warning that without it there was a risk that the recovery could derail.
But there was no plan for specific coordinated stimulus spending to spark activity, as some investors had been hoping after markets nosedived at the start of 2016. Over the course of the two-day meeting in Shanghai comments by policymakers made clear the divergence of views on the way forward. Finance chiefs had agreed that "the magnitude of recent market volatility has not reflected the underlying fundamentals of the global economy", the communique draft said.
To pep up the global economy, faster progress on structural reforms "should bolster potential growth in the medium term and make our economies more innovative, flexible and resilient", it said. "We are committed to further enhancing the structural reform agenda," it added.