POLITICS

Flaherty: G20 countries committed to fiscal targets, but will work on specifics

04/19/2013 03:19 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT
Although the G20 countries reaffirmed their commitment Friday for specific fiscal targets as a way for governments to achieve economic growth, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he had hoped for "stronger" language.

"Quite frankly, the language could've been stronger, but it's sufficient to move this forward of in terms of fiscal strategy to the St. Petersburg summit," he said of the group's official communique following a G20 finance policy meeting in Washington.

Flaherty said the consensus show that the specifics will be discussed at the next G20 leaders summit in Russia in September.

"I think these are desirable objectives, that is to have hard targets... We will agree on the strategies by our next meeting. So there is more work to be done in terms of the targets," he said.

The issue of individual countries setting fiscal targets was raised during the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010

According to the communique Friday, the finance ministers believe that the global economy is improving but still remains vulnerable.

"The recovery remains uneven and is progressing at different speeds with emerging markets experiencing relatively strong growth, the United States demonstrating a gradual strengthening of private demand, and the recovery in the euro area as a whole yet to materialize," said the 16-point document.

"Policy uncertainty, private deleveraging, fiscal drag, impaired credit intermediation, and a still incomplete rebalancing of global demand continue to weigh on global growth prospects. Medium-term challenges are also present in many economies, including those related to fiscal sustainability and financial stability."

The minister said the G20 countries also agreed that now is not the time to be passive about economic policy.

"Almost five years after the onset of a financial crisis, there has been some progress but global economic growth remains modest. We cannot be complacent," he said.

"We must remain focused on delivering on our commitments, and promoting jobs and economic growth. We certainly, collectively, want to reduce uncertainty and build confidence."

Flaherty said the financial policy-makers also agreed that currency is the responsibility of the central banks, and should not be tinkered with by governments.

Although the minister wouldn't specify if the comments were directed at any particular country, Japan has been criticized recently for loosening their monetary policy and stopping deflation, in turn, depressing the value of the yen.

"There were general discussions about currency, and Canada maintained its position that we believe in free trade in currency. That is, we believe in market currency and markets determining the value of currency," he said.

"The G20 did reiterate its commitment to moving to market determined exchange rates, and our commitment together, to avoid protectionist measures — that is in fact a hallmark of the G20."

Flaherty added that the ministers also held a "substantial amount of discussions" on the use of quantitative easing by various countries, but would not provide more specifics.

The minister was scheduled to attend a second meeting Friday in Washington with the International Monetary Fund.