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Expectations Mixed for Emergency Economic Meeting


World leaders, calling themselves the Group of 20, will hold their second meeting on the global financial crisis April 2 in London. There is disagreement over the central issue of increasing government spending to compensate for the sharp fall off in global economic activity.

The global recession is already the worst in 60 years. Stock market losses in Europe, Asia and the Americas have erased $50 trillion of wealth.

Economist Mark Zandi says in the modern era the collapse in consumer spending is unprecedented and severe. "We have almost every country on the planet in recession. The developed economies of course are getting hit very hard. The EU is down 6 percent, the U.S. percent, and Japan 12 percent," he said.

The Group of 20 includes economies as diverse as the United States, China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and the European Union.

They account for 80 percent of global output. But South African-born economist Desmond Lachman has low expectations for this second meeting of the G20. "The only thing they seem to agree on is the size of the IMF, which in my view is very welcome," Lachman said. "But it is very much a sideshow to the crisis in which the world economy finds itself."

Lachman believes big increases in government spending are essential to forestall further collapse and compensate for lost output. But on this, he says, there is no agreement. "The United States believes fiscal stimulus is the right way to go. The Europeans don't share that view. They believe that if you increase the debt of the government this is only going to lead to trouble down the road," he said.

As they did in November, world leaders will affirm their commitment to open markets.

But since then, most of the 20 economies have moved in subtle ways to restrict trade.

Even the United States, an advocate of open markets, has moved to favor U.S.trucks in cross border trade with Mexico.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick says protectionism is a threat. "The danger of protectionism, either overt or creeping, would really make a very bad situation much, much worse," Zoellick said.

Analysts agree that more than lofty commitments, action is needed - in London - to get the world economy back on rack.

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