France has taken over the leadership of the Group of 20 and Group of 8, with President Nicolas Sarkozy saying he would push for big changes to the world order but not challenge the dominance of the US dollar.
Sarkozy wants to calm financial and commodity markets
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday outlined his goals for France's presidency of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing economies, emphasizing the need for stability in times of economic uncertainty.
Speaking to 300 journalists and diplomats at the Elysee presidential palace, Sarkozy restated France's support for a financial transaction tax, which has also been backed by Germany but opposed by the United States.
He added that it was a "moral" issue, and that it would be "useful for dissuading speculation and effective for finding new resources for development."
Sarkozy said he would not challenge the dominance of the dollar
France took over the rotating presidency of the G20 last November and assumed the leadership of the G8 on Jan. 1.
The president carefully backed off from previous calls for a change to the Bretton Woods system of global monetary order, which heavily relies on the US dollar.
"The dollar will remain an absolutely dominant currency," Sarkozy said.
In his New Year's Eve address to the nation, Sarkozy had called the Bretton Woods system, first established at the end of World War II, outdated and "for a world that doesn't exist anymore." He criticized the US Federal Reserve for increasing the money supply by printing more dollars, saying the actions favored the US but had negative consequences for other countries.
Another high priority for France's G20 presidency would be tackling the instability of the world commodities market, which Sarkozy said should be regulated like financial markets.
"If we don't do anything we run the risk of food riots in the poorest countries and a very unfavorable effect on global economic growth," he said. "The day there are food riots, what country at the G20 table will say this does not concern them? I don't see a single one."
France officially took the reigns of the G20 at a summit last November
Summit in China
Sarkozy invited British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to help set the economic agenda for the G20.
Merkel would co-chair a working group on changes to the world monetary system alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who takes over the G20 presidency from France next year.
Medvedev would oversee possible reforms to agricultural products market while Cameron would study plans for new forms of global governance, including a permanent G20 secretariat and a world environmental body.
Sarkozy also said he would attend a summit in China at the end of March to kick off reforms of the global financial system.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson