APEC Finance Chiefs Meet As Global Worries Persist

October 22, 2014 – The global economic recovery is beset by “downside risks”, China’s vice-premier told Asia-Pacific finance ministers said earlier today, a day after growth in the world’s second-largest economy hit a five-year low.

The meeting in Beijing of ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum precedes the group’s annual summit next month, when Chinese President Xi Jinping is to host counterparts including US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Now global economic recovery remains difficult, with downside risks still existing,” China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said in a speech formally starting the finance meeting.

The Asia-Pacific faced challenges including what he described as “policy adjustment of major developed economies”, apparently a reference to the US Federal Reserve winding down its vast bond-buying programme put in place to help fight the global financial crisis. His comments came a day after China, a major driver of global growth, said gross domestic product expanded 7.3 per cent in the third quarter, its slowest pace since the depths of the worldwide downturn.

APEC, established in 1989, groups 21 economies spanning Asia, Oceania and North and South America and includes the United States, China, Japan and Russia, emerging economies such as Mexico and Indonesia and small nations such as Brunei and Papua New Guinea.

“The Asia-Pacific region is the main driving force and engine for global economic growth,” Zhang said, stressing that the group’s economies account for 40 per cent of the world’s population, 70 per cent of the global economy and 46 per cent of world trade. Zhang said ministers would be discussing, among other issues, the global and regional economy, infrastructure investment and financing cooperation, and fiscal and taxation policy.

The gathering was attended by Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei, Japan’s Taro Aso and others, though US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew skipped the event, instead sending Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank, warned the meeting of wider global risks, including weakening commodity prices, the Ebola outbreak in west Africa and political instability characterised by the rise of the Islamic State group and the conflict in Ukraine. “The picture has changed, and 2014 could turn out to be a disappointing year for the global economy,” she said. “Global growth has been revised downwards and is now expected at 2.6 per cent this year, only marginally up from 2.4 per cent in 2013,” she added, highlighting “a systematic underestimation of global headwinds and inadequacies of policy responses”.

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