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Business

Schäuble rejects coordinated stimulus at G20

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 are at odds over the medicine needed to boost the world's ailing economies. Germany rejects a stimulus, but others say it should be part of a mix that includes reforms.

G20 meeting, Feb. 26, 2016, Shanghai. Lu Jiwei, Wolfgang Schäuble, David Lipton.

Finance Minister Schäuble (C), Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L), and IMF deputy David Lipton (R)

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble rejects the idea of a coordinated fiscal stimulus package, which is being floated at a gathering of finance ministers from the G20 in Shanghai.

He urged countries to follow through on promises of pro-growth structural reforms, rather than boosting growth via monetary and fiscal policy.

"The debt financed growth model has reached its limit," Schäuble said at an event organized by the Washington-based Institute of International Finance alongside the Shanghai meeting. "We do not agree on a G20 fiscal stimulus package."

Rather, he urged countries to deliver on reforms.

"We are not lacking in policy proposals," he said. "We are lacking in policy implementation."

That sentiment was partially echoed by Mark Carney, head of the Bank of England. Governments need to follow through with promised economic reforms, he said, adding that central banks still have room to cut interest rates.

"Global growth has disappointed because the innovation and ambition of global monetary policy has not been matched by structural measures," Carney said. "In most advanced economies, difficult structural reforms have been deferred."

The need to go bold

The IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, who was also attending the Shanghai meeting, agreed that policymakers need to speed up the pace of reforms, and urged them to do so. But she said it wasn't an either-or choice: Reforms need not preclude coordinated stimulus spending.

"We think they should go bold, they should go broad and they should go together," said Lagarde. Referring to monetary and fiscal policy and structural reforms, she said: "There has to be action on all fronts."

The G20 gathering includes finance ministers and central bankers from wealthy economies, including the United States, China, Japan, Germany and England, as well as major emerging economies.

Collectively, the countries' financial managers are under pressure – but none more so than China's – to reassure nervous financial markets.

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Despite Chinese denials, fears persist that Beijing will allow its currency, the yuan, to decline in value in order to support struggling exporters.

"We will not resort to competitive depreciation to boost our advantage in exports," said Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, at a news conference.

China is in the process of trying to transform its economy from a heavy focus on exports towards greater domestic consumption. The country's 2015 exports were down 2.8 percent from 2014, well below the official target of 6 percent growth in total trade.

In addition to ebbing trade, the world's second largest economy was rocked last year by a stock market collapse that wiped out $5 trillion (4.5 trillion euros) in paper wealth. Market turmoil continued on Thursday as the country's main stock index plunged 6.4 percent.

bik/rc (AP, dpa)

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