G20 Appears Set on Collision Course With QE2

On 11-12 November, Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G20 will gather together in Seoul, with a number of history-shaping matters on the agenda, and as the G20 Summit draws nearer, criticism of the US Federal Reserve’s latest quantitative easing strategy (QE2) of pumping $600 billion into the US economy is growing stronger. Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schauble is the latest G20 member to voice his country’s discontent, and although some may consider his comments on the matter to be somewhat strongly worded, the sentiments are echoed by others. He sounded a warning that the economic growth model the US is adopting is in what he called ‘deep crisis’ and that the United States is undermining its credibility as a leader in financial policy making. Schauble also pointed out that the route the US is taking in economic recovery efforts is increasing global economic uncertainty, and he accused the US of being hypocritical regarding exchange rates in pressuring the Chinese, when they are artificially steering the dollar exchange rate lower. Other countries that have gone on record criticizing QE2 include Brazil, China and South Africa, with the latter expressing concern as to the likely negative impact on the exports of developing countries.

G20 member countries are Canada, Mexico, United States, Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union. Items on the agenda for the G20 Summit in Seoul will include steps to be taken to shift exchange rates from the current ‘market oriented’ rates to ‘market determined’ rates. It is anticipated that Basel III rules on bank capital and liquidity will be confirmed, and upon acceptance by all G20 leaders will go down in history as a milestone in the reform of financial regulation, even if, as critics have pointed out, the proposals are broad rather than going into details over issues such as surcharges for inter-connected banks.

There is much speculation as to what will be achieved when it comes to monetary policy, fiscal consolidation and exchange rate policies at the G20 summit, with critics taking a wait-and-see attitude as to the actual implementation of any agreed on reforms. It is likely that the next G20 host country, France, will motivate new rules to curb speculation in global commodity markets, but the general opinion is that it is unlikely this will get support from other members. All in all, there is a lot riding on decisions taken at the upcoming G20 Seoul Summit 2010 which has as its theme ‘G20’s Role in the Post Crisis World’, which in itself is seen as being overly optimistic in a world that still appears to be in economic crisis.