Rifts appear ahead of G20 meeting

Rifts appear ahead of G20 meeting

Divisions have emerged among G20 finance ministers over the best ways to scale back stimulus spending and tackle climate change, the BBC has learned.

Ministers from the 20 leading economies are in St Andrews, Fife (Scotland), to discuss entrenching global recovery and avoiding a repeat of the credit crunch.

Some G20 nations, including the US, Japan and Germany, want to debate ending measures to boost growth.

But the UK, still mired in a long downturn, is more cautious.

"We cannot yet be confident that [the] global recovery has sufficient momentum to be sustained and durable," Chancellor Alistair Darling said on Friday.

"Once we're through this, we must co-ordinate our plans for the recovery, just as we have coordinated our response to this recession."

"As we draw up our plans, we must accept that the biggest risk to recovery would be to exit before the recovery is real," he added.

'Biggest risk'

There is also some concern about government finances.

Government debt in the developed G20 countries is likely to reach 118% of annual national income (GDP) in 2014, the International Monetary Fund has said.

It will take years of spending cuts and higher taxes to get debts down to what the IMF calls safe levels.

Once again, France is continuing to press for more to be done to stop excessive bonuses in the banking sector.

"I would hope that a little bit more can be done, to actually cast in stone the fact that we want to stop excesses, stop abuses, and bonuses that are strictly risk incentives," Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told the BBC.

Many blame the huge bonuses on offer to bankers for them taking the kinds of risks that led to the financial crisis.

Climate policy

The BBC's business correspondent, Joe Lynam, also said that there were disagreements on which forum was the most appropriate place to discuss funding to fight climate change.

Several nations want to discuss it under the banner of the G20, wary that signs are not looking good ahead of December's climate summit in Copenhagen, where nation hope to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto treaty.

The UK government said this month it was highly unlikely that a new legally binding climate treaty could be agreed this year - and said that a full treaty may be a year away.

The UK is arguing that the United Nations talks are still the best forum to have discussions on global environmental issues, our correspondent added.

Several countries appear to be waiting for the US position to become clear.

But, with healthcare a domestic priority and various climate bills making their way slowly through Congress, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has not been in a rush to make promises about what the Obama administration can and cannot do.

Britain is suggesting that the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen are more qualified to decide the issue along with an American plan to help fund poor countries deal with global warming.

Many have voiced concerns about the weakness of the US dollar and strength of the euro and yen, our correspondent said, although G20 ministers did not specifically discuss currencies.

Some countries also remain worried about the rate progress over closing down tax havens, a key pledge made during the London G20 summit earlier this year.

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