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G20 Divisions Between Rich and Developing Countries Could Hamper Agreement

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G20 Finance Ministers meet in France Friday and Saturday to seek agreement on a framework for stabilizing the global economy.  But large divisions among rich and developing nations may make finding common ground difficult.

The contrast between rapid growth in emerging economies versus sluggish recovery and high unemployment in many developed nations is expected to play a prominent role in discussions as economic ministers from the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations gather in Paris.


Economist Chris Williamson says two key challenges are likely to dominate. "The first is the old story of the global imbalances and in particular, China's surplus and U.S. deficit.  The second is, as it has already been flagged up - the big commodity argument and whether speculation on commodities should be curbed," he said.

A debate is already underway between commodity producers and consumer nations over proposed regulations aimed at taming soaring food costs.

And as in previous summits, tensions over currency exchange rates between Washington and Beijing remain high.

U.S. officials maintain that China deliberately undervalues its currency to gain an edge in exports. But other countries, including Brazil accuse the U.S. of doing the same, using its monetary policy of quantitative easing to devalue the dollar.

International economist Stefan Schneider at Deutsche Bank says the ongoing feuds make agreement on a new global framework very unlikely. "I think it will not be very successful.  One has to see that when the G20 meeting was set up during the last global economic recession - everyone shared the same song, everyone wanted to fend off recession.  But since then, the interest has diverged quite substantially," he said.

While many member countries agree consistent banking standards and tougher regulations might prevent another crisis, there are disagreements on how individual countries should be monitored.

But French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde says the focus on recovery and sustainable growth worldwide is something about which all nations can agree. "It's going to be about improving the international monetary system.  It's going to be about bringing a bit of transparency, proper information and appropriate regulation in the field of commodities and derivative commodities.  It will be about making sure that the financial regulations are enforced throughout, properly in a coordinated and consistent fashion," she said.

How coordinated and how consistent, remains in doubt.

Despite the G20's stated goal to develop new guidelines to rebalance the global economy and prevent another crisis, experts say such an agreement is unlikely in the near future.

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