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France rallies China, Russia for G20 reform drive

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Jan 24, 2011
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy rallied China, Russia and other allies Monday as he launched his G20 plans for world finance reform which he said aimed to defend poor and emerging economies.

Sarkozy said he would meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in China in March and invited Britain, Germany and Russia to aid his efforts to police financial transactions and stabilise currency and raw commodities markets.

He also said France wants to reform the International Monetary Fund, a support for emerging economies, to broaden its world finance role.

"We propose to the G20 to develop a code of conduct for managing capital flows," Sarkozy said in a televised address. "The role of the IMF should be broadened, possibly by modifying its statutes."

He said the IMF should "carry out surveillance" of international capital transactions -- part of his strategy for ending what he sees as dangerous imbalances in the world financial system.

Setting out his plans for his stewardship of the G20 and the G8 group of biggest economies, he said he would be aided by British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Merkel will co-chair a working group on the world monetary system with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, who will take on the G20 presidency in 2012, and hold a seminar in China at the end of March, Sarkozy said.

Medvedev meanwhile will oversee a working group looking at reforms to the agricultural market, seeking ways to control what Sarkozy sees as instability in global food prices.

"If we do nothing, we risk food riots in the poorest countries," such as the violent protests that broke out in numerous countries in 2008, he warned.

He proposed a common database to monitor food production and stocks and a system of "universal social protection" under International Labour Organisation workers' rights conventions.

Cameron, Sarkozy added, has been asked to re-examine the nuts and bolts of global government: studying plans for a permanent G20 secretariat, a world environmental body and a reform of agricultural organisations.

Kicking off Sarkozy's personal calendar for the year are the talks with Hu, when he will tackle the sensitive issue of China's currency policy.

The United States and other western powers accuse Beijing of holding the value of its currency at an artificially low level, thereby favouring Chinese exports while holding down domestic demand for foreign products.

Sarkozy said it "hadn't been easy" to convince China to host the March meeting, but added: "Far be it from me to tell China what to do" about its own exchange rate policy.

He also insisted he was not seeking to end the dollar's preeminent role in the world monetary system, stressing it "should remain a strong currency", amid growing calls for other currencies to take on a greater role.

But "the emergence of new international powers will lead unavoidably to the emergence of new international currencies," however, he added.

Sarkozy reiterated his desire for a tax on international financial transactions, which he hopes to hammer out during his year at the G20 helm.

"France considers that this tax is moral, given the financial crisis that we have just been through, useful for dissuading speculation and effective for finding new resources for development" of poor countries, he said.

He said he had asked Germany and Mexico to jointly lead a working group on financial reform.

Sarkozy has suffered record-low approval ratings of less than a third over recent months and is hoping that his turn on the world stage will also give him a political boost at home.

A G8 summit is scheduled in Deauville, western France in late May and a G20 summit in November in the southern resort of Cannes.

"We will get results," Sarkozy vowed.

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