G7 Finance Ministers warn on protectionism, promise to use all policy tools

The G7 Finance Minister and Central Bankers who met in Rome over the weekend, released a communiqué promising to use the full range of policy tools to restore stability to battered global finances.

At the 2 day meeting in Rome G7 Finance Ministers and Central Banks Governors dedicated the first day to Italy's initiative on global financial standards. It’s proposing unifying standards on taxation, trade and industrial production. Russian Finance Minister, Aleksey Kudrin, agrees that financial regulations need coordination.

“There are some international norms in certain areas, but what is needed now is correspondence of these norms. Russia supports the initiative. It concerns regulations in financial and broader economic spheres. It should become a vaccination from the next crisis.”

And if the first day was devoted to longer term issues, the second was devoted to the here and now.

In addressing the economic slowdown and financial crisis, the final communiqué emphasized that there was commitment to using the full range of policy tools on key issues – Enhanced liquidity, and strengthened capital bases.

It also called for the rejection of protectionism, but noted that measures already undertaken would take time to become effective. Giuseppe Pennisi, Professor, at the Scuola Superiore Della Pubblica Amministrazione is also wary of what the communiqué didn’t say.

“The communiqué is not talking about the major threat – which is unemployment. I mean the figures released last night by the ILO that there will be a loss of 50 million jobs from December 2007, to December 2009. This loss of 50 million jobs will be mostly, to a certain extent in Europe, but will mostly be in Asia, which means China, it also means Russia.”

The communiqué indicated that the parties are closer to agreement on key issues than before the meeting, but vague wording is a reminder of the devil in the details

The G20 meeting, in early April, will see a wider range of countries discuss the agreement reached in Rome. The Finance Ministers have warned on protectionist sentiments expressed by the American stimulus and French automotive bailout. With worsening economic data protectionism will remain an issue as countries seek to protect the local worker first, despite the risks if all countries follow the same course.