Factbox: Key comments from G20 leaders, policymakers

SEOUL (BestGrowthStock) – Following are highlights from comments made at the G20 summit on Thursday as leaders prepared to meet to hammer out a deal to remedy global economic imbalances and to defuse rows over currencies.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

“You will see at this summit a broad-based agreement from all countries, including Germany, that we need to ensure balanced sustainable growth.

“It is my expectation that the communique will begin to put in place mechanisms that help us track and encourage such balanced and sustainable growth.

“The most important thing that the United States can do for the world economy is to grow because we continue to be the world’s largest market and a huge engine for all other countries to grow, countries like Germany that export heavily benefit from our open markets and us buying their goods. That is true for every G20 member.”

“Now, as I’ve said I think when I was first asked this in India, it’s not our habit to comment on actions by the Federal Reserve. But as President of the United States, I can tell you that my instructions to my team, including Secretary Geithner, is to focus every single day on how we can grow our economy, how we can increase exports, how we can make sure that even as we’re buying goods from places like South Korea we’re also selling goods to places like South Korea.

“Countries like Germany historically are very sensitive to issues like inflation. But I don’t think you’ll get any objection to their belief that if the U.S. isn’t growing, that’s not good for the rest of the world.

“It also doesn’t negate the fact that if we — if individual countries are engaging in practices that are purposely designed to boost their exports at the expense of others, that that can contribute to problems as opposed to solving them.

“There’s one last point I want to make about debt and deficits, and that is that the single most important thing we can do to reduce our debt and our deficits is to grow.”

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK

“I think eventually an agreement will be made to a certain degree on various subjects including foreign exchange rates.

“We had reached an agreement (at finance minister meeting in Gyeongju on the current account and foreign exchange policy direction) despite skepticism that no agreement would be reached because of a divide in opinion between U.S., China, Europe and other countries.

“Macroeconomic imbalances is an issue that should be resolved with urgency. But over the long term, I think development imbalances is also an urgent issue to tackle.

“(Developing the underdeveloped countries) can contribute to the long-term balance in the world economy.”

TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER

“The U.S. will never do that,” Geithner told CNBC in an interview in response to a suggestion by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that Washington was pursuing a policy of weakening the dollar.

“The dollar generally rose during that period of time and as the world becomes more progressively confident, some of (those) safe haven inflows have been reversed,” he said referring to the time 2- years ago when the dollar started to rise as a safe haven at the start of the global financial crisis.

“That’s been the dominant trend we see, that’s very encouraging.

“It’s worth stepping back to see what are basic objectives of this proposal and they are to make sure that as the world recovers, we don’t set in motion the types of forces that could lead to re-emergence of excessive imbalances around the world — deficits and surpluses — because those would threaten our future growth.”

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“For strong, balanced growth it is necessary to reduce the global imbalances in the current accounts of countries.

“Only cooperative action could get us forward. The key to reduce the existing imbalances is mainly to have flexible moving exchange rates of the major currencies. They have to reflect the economic fundamentals of the countries.

“Fixing limits for current account surpluses or deficits is neither economically justified nor politically appropriate. This would also be in contrast to the principles of free trade in the world.

“It is important for me that the industrial countries had promised to half their deficits by 2013 and to stabilize or reduce their debt-ratio by 2016.”

INDIAN CHIEF G20 NEGOTIATOR MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA

“The real issue is given that it is a problem, how do we coordinate policy? I don’t think you should be too demanding … because such policy coordination has never been attempted before.

“I am hopeful we will get some agreement and I’m sure it will take time.

“As and when numbers are decided that has to be on the basis of some analytical work. Somebody has to do the exercise.

“We are handling a completely new set of things. So I don’t think one should expect an instant solution.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER

“The persistence of these imbalances is a problem in the long term and these things have to be addressed … will they be addressed at this conference? I’m not so sure, but I think we’re getting a more frank discussion on some of these matters, that they do have to be resolved.

“I don’t normally weigh in on the policy of another country but those who are criticizing the policy of the Federal Reserve — I’m not sure what alternative they are suggesting. The United States economy has a very slow rate of growth. The United States economy also has interest rates that are virtually zero … nobody is urging the United States to engage in fiscal expansion.

“So I think under the circumstances the quantitative easing policy is in the short term, the only option available to the Federal Reserve. And I’m not sure anyone else has provided any compelling argument as to what alternative policy they would pursue, at least in the short term.

“Now, even without quantitative easing, one has observed that there has been a depreciation of the American dollar and an appreciation in other currencies, including our own.”

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JOSE MANUEL BARROSO

“What is important to know is that we have all the essential instruments in place in the European Union and euro zone to act if necessary, but I am not going to make any speculation,” he told reporters, when asked whether Brussels would need to act to support Ireland.

“This summit is a credibility test — the question is how far we can go at this summit to agree on joint action so we can boost global growth and jobs.

“The G20 has prevented the boat from sinking, we have picked up speed but not all engines are working on full power, the G20 must show that it is indeed the premier forum for global economic co-operation.

“I do not believe that mechanical one-size fits all numerical targets are the solution to this challenge but indicative guidelines can help to address broad imbalances.”

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT HERMAN VAN ROMPUY

“This should be used as a warning indicator for possible obstacles to adjustment but we do not believe in mechanistic approaches,” he said, referring to current account imbalances.

“The European Union as a whole has a balanced current account position.

“Exchange rates have to reflect fundamentals, but fundamentals in themselves have to be corrected — these are fundamentals as far as inflation is concerned but also fundamentals as far as current account balance of payments are concerned.”

ANGEL GURRIA, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE OECD

On imbalances

“There will be an agreement. As always there are expectations created before these meetings, and, as always, it’s difficult to meet expectations on each and every issue.

“There is enough focus, awareness, attention and weight on the issue that it’s going to be successfully addressed. It’s process. It will not start today and it won’t finish today.

“In an economic and trading system there are certain rules and expectations on prices — and the exchange rate is a key price — that members are expected to abide by to bring about adjustment of external balances.

“If one or several players — especially if they are large players — do not abide by these expected rules of conduct, then the system does not work as smoothly and you have tensions.”

Factbox: Key comments from G20 leaders, policymakers