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Washington Financial Summit Promises to Renew Efforts to Expand Trade


A one-day summit of leaders from 20 developing and advanced economies, and the European Union agreed Saturday in Washington to take action to combat economic slowdown and keep markets open. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

The leaders said they were pleased with the results. And there was a sense that something new has been set in motion with this first ever leaders meeting of what is called the G-20. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the G-20 is likely to replace the G-8-the Europeans, Japanese and North Americans, which have met annually for over 30 years. Emerging economies, Mr. da Silva said, must be taken into account in global economic decisions. Collectively the participating countries account for over 80 percent of global output.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, an early proponent of the Washington meeting, said the leaders are determined to avoid trade protectionism.

"We will refrain from erecting new barriers to investment and trade for the next 12 months and all leaders are signed on to this," said Mr. Brown. "And more importantly, we instruct our trade ministers to agree the modalities of a new trade agreement by the end of the year."

The Doha Round of trade liberalization talks have been stalemated for two years. Mr. Brown said it is significant that in a time of economic distress, leaders want to keep their markets open.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the nine-page summit declaration is blunt in identifying reckless financial practices as causing the current turmoil, which led to credit markets freezing and stock prices plummeting. At a Washington press conference, Mr. Rudd condemned the excessive salaries paid to top bankers.

"People around the world are fed up and angry and upset at the outrageous packages paid to financial company executives who have contributed so much to what has gone wrong in the global economy. And who pays the price? Working people and their jobs," said Rudd.

The summit declaration says financial institutions borrowed too much and engaged in risky, unregulated activities.

The G-20 comprises three North American countries (US, Canada, Mexico), four west European nations (UK, France, Italy, Germany), Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, two South American nations (Brazil, Argentina), Australia,five Asian nations (Japan, China, India, South Korea, Indonesia), and the European Union.

The leaders plan to meet again within five months and by then they want to have a plan for developing countries obtaining a bigger voice in the International Monetary Fund. IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn participated in the Washington summit.

"I'm hoping that in March or April when we have the new conference, then really, we will have a change in the governance of the world that didn't happen for 60 years will take place," said Strauss-Kahn.

The Washington summit was prepared at short notice and yet participants appear to be departing pleased with the result.


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