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G-8 Ministers Warn High Energy Prices Threaten Global Economy


Group of Eight finance ministers meeting in Russia say world economic growth continues, but they warned it is threatened by soaring costs for oil and gas. The ministers met in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg, where the G-8 summit will be held next month.

The G-8 ministers called for a coordinated response to high energy costs, which they say pose a threat to economic growth around the world.

In a statement at the end of their two-day meeting, the ministers called for action both by energy-producing and energy-consuming nations, as oil prices hover around $70 a barrel.

Proposed measures would include increased investment in the energy sector, increased fuel efficiency and a common global standard for reporting oil reserves.

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin underscored this in comments after the meeting ended. He said that stability in the energy market is a question not just of those who produce oil and gas, but of those who consume as well.

The ministers, from the United States, Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Britain and Germany and Russia, also discussed the difficult issue of a long-delayed agreement, which would regulate energy trade between Russia and the European Union.

The EU wants Moscow to sign an energy charter that would allow for foreign investment in the oil and gas pipeline sector that is currently controlled by the giant gas monopoly, Gazprom.

Russia has refused to agree to this, arguing that it wants more access to invest in energy markets in western Europe.

About one-fourth of the EU's natural gas supplies come from Russia, and a cut-off of supplies, amid a price dispute with neighboring Ukraine in January, shook confidence in Russia as a reliable source of energy.

Senior officials from various other nations including Australia, Brazil, China and India joined the ministers for their meeting on Saturday.

They declared opposition to protectionism, and called for more progress in the current Doha round of trade talks aimed at liberalizing the world market for goods and services in agriculture and industry.

The United States and European Union have come under strong pressure to ease official subsidies to agriculture that developing nations say hurt their economies. Washington and Brussels argue that other nations must open up their markets to industrial goods and services.