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Russia: Uncertainty Of Russian Attendance At G-7 Meeting In Bonn

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 19 February (RFE/RL) -- Whether Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Central Bank Governor Viktor Gerashchenko show up in Bonn this weekend at the Group of Seven major industrial nations meeting may not be known for sure until the limousines begin arriving.

The G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors are gathering for one of their regular sessions to review the current global economy, including Russia.

German officials say Russia's top two financial officials were invited to join the group for a specified period to review Russia's situation. Spokesmen for the two officials in Moscow, however, said they wanted to attend but had not received an official invitation.

Russian officials did the same thing last spring in Washington, snubbing a similar meeting to make the point that they wanted to be included as full members of a G-8 or not at all. G-7 officials after that meeting said only they were sorry the Russian's had not appeared. The G-7 is Germany, the U.S., Japan, France, Great Britain, Italy and Canada.

Russian leaders had been taking larger roles in the annual G-7 summits. And London even dubbed last year's meeting G-8, although others did not adopt that title. But since Russia's mounting economic and financial troubles burst in August, talk of expanding the G-7 to eight nations has quietly died in most western capitals.

The G-7 finance leaders want to review where Russia is in its efforts at a recovery, but for help, U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin says, Moscow must deal with the International Monetary Fund. He said recently that the key for Russia is to work through the IMF with a sensible and sound program. Once that's done, then other creditors like the Paris Club can be worked out.

In addition to discussing Russia -- with or without Zadornov and Gerashchenko -- the G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors will be tackling a full agenda. All of it is part of the broad effort at redesigning the architecture of the global financial system to try to avoid or lessen crises like that which struck Asia, then spread around the world.

German Bundesbank (Central Bank) President Hans Tietmeyer will present a proposal to establish what he calls a Financial Stability Forum -- a kind of global supervisory body -- to coordinate financial policies, and ways to deal with crisis, among all national authorities, the international financial institutions, and world regulatory authorities.

There is, however, concern about too much global coordination. Japan and several European countries have suggested finding a way to link the value of the world's major currencies to keep the dollar, yen and euro from swinging too wildly against each other.

But Rubin said the U.S. sees a lot of difficulties in this approach, not the least of which is finding a way to actually set appropriate values. But he said the U.S. is not pushing a laissez-faire approach:

Rubin said he would characterize the U.S. approach as a belief in a market-based system which will most efficiently allocate resources while promoting the well-being of the peoples of the globe, while recognizing there are problems that can't be solved by markets.

Rubin, who spoke to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, said it is critical that the meeting also push Japan and Europe to get their economies growing again. "This is critical to the prospects for recovery in the emerging economies," he said. It is also important because the international system cannot indefinitely sustain the large imbalances created by the disparities in growth and openness between the U.S. and its major trading partners.

Europe and Japan, Rubin said, cannot fail to realize that they must adopt fundamental reforms in their economic structures if they are to resume growth:

Rubin said many observers agree there are a host of economic and social reforms needed to deal with structural impediments to growth which, if fixed, would give Europe the kind of domestic demand-led growth of which it has the potential.

As part of the discussion on dealing with global financial crises, Rubin says the G-7 talks will also continue to look at increased involvement of the private sector:

Rubin said there will never be enough money in the public sector to deal with the size of financial instability in the modern world. The private sector must be a part of crisis response, he said, but you've got to be very careful in how you do it.

Since much of the instability in crises comes from the too-quick movement of private capital, both in and out of countries, Rubin said official crisis management should be careful not to cause capital shifts to be even worse. It's a very delicate balance, he said.

(Floriana Fossato in Moscow contributed to this report)