Finance chiefs meet in Istanbul; currency issues on the agenda

Top finance representatives from the Group of Seven rich nations meeting in Istanbul on Saturday are expected to address the weak dollar. Speaking on Friday, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (photo) stressed the need for a strong dollar.


AFP - Europe put pressure on the United States to support a weak dollar as finance chiefs from the Group of Seven richest economies gathered in Istanbul on Saturday for talks on the economic crisis.

"Everyone needs a strong dollar," French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said on Friday ahead of the G7 talks in the run-up to annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Turkey's biggest city.

The IMF has said that a tentative global economic recovery has begun but has also warned that the economic crisis is not yet over as the financial sector remains badly battered and unemployment in many countries continues to rise.

The G7 finance chiefs were to discuss "the next steps and implementation" of a roadmap agreed at the G20 summit last week for recovery from the worst recession since World War II, a US Treasury official said earlier.

Signs of recovery have pushed down the value of the dollar, which is traditionally seen on currency markets as a safe haven in tough economic times and whose status as the world's main reserve currency has been questioned.

The current state of the dollar has also led some experts to conclude that Washington is now allowing the currency to lose value as a way of boosting US exports by making them cheaper -- a tactic that would weaken European exports.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has sought to dampen these fears, saying recently that "a strong dollar is very important" to the US economy.

The dollar meanwhile fell against both the yen and the euro on Friday, going down to 1.4590 dollars to the euro in late trading in London.

"Excessive volatility and disorderly movement in exchange rates has adverse implications for economic and financial stability," European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet warned earlier this week.

Trichet is set to attend the Istanbul talks, along with finance ministers and central bank governors from the G7 members: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

This grouping of rich global economies has now been eclipsed by the G20 which includes major emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India and Russia.

Leaders at a G20 summit in the US city of Pittsburgh last week agreed the wider grouping was the main forum for international economic cooperation.

Stressing the decline of the G7, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn disparaged the group in an interview on Friday.

"The old G7 -- I was about to say the late G7," the former French Socialist finance minister told news television network France 24.

G7 meetings were "a bit without substance" and "floating in the clouds with communiques which no longer interest anyone," he added.

The US Treasury official however said the G7 remained "a valuable format for finance ministers" by bringing together "the largest creditors in the system."

Though the meeting on Saturday is of the G7, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is expected to participate. The G7 meeting will also be the first for the new Japanese finance minister, Hirohisa Fujii.

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