Finance ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations said yesterday in a draft communique that global growth is strong, but warned of dangers posed by high energy prices and economic imbalances.
"Global growth remains strong and is gradually becoming more broadly based," said the ministers, who met in St. Petersburg in the run-up to next month's summit of G-8 leaders. "However, downside risks from high and volatile energy prices and widening global imbalances remain."
The ministers called for promoting greater transparency and reliability in energy market data through developing a global common standard for reporting oil reserves.
Finance ministers had been expected to discuss how the US is dealing with its huge trade deficit and what policies other countries are pursuing to bolster domestic growth as a way of supporting US exports. Without referring directly to the US, the draft called the task of addressing economic imbalances a "shared responsibility."
The US Commerce Department said on Friday that the trade deficit rose to US$63.4 billion in April after two months of rare declines, pushed higher by surging oil prices and a flood of imported furniture, televisions and toys from China.
In the face of calls in Europe to diversify energy supplies away from a strong reliance on Russia currently supplying a quarter of European energy, Moscow has insisted that predictable markets for its oil and gas are a key part of energy security. The draft appeared to acknowledge both positions.
"We recognize the importance of the principles of the Energy Charter, of diversification of energy markets and supply sources and of strengthened emergency response cooperation in ensuring energy security," the draft said.
Early this year, Moscow cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in a price war, resulting in a brief disruption to EU nations in the dead of the winter.
Europe has been pushing Russia to ratify the Energy Charter, which provides a mechanism for crafting predictable market conditions for producers and consumers alike. However, Russia has resisted EU pressure to ratify the document that would require it to open its export pipeline network and other energy assets to foreign investors.
The ministers also drafted a separate statement focusing on the need to support impoverished nations' access to energy supplies.
"We urge national governments and multilateral and bilateral donors to integrate energy issues into poverty reduction and country assistance strategies, including options for the least developed countries to tap their natural resources potential," they said.
The draft statement saluted the role played by emerging economies like Russia, China and Brazil in funding development projects in the world's poorest nations.
Russian Finance minister Alexei Kudrin on Friday touted a US$700 million debt write-off that would require debtor countries to use US$250 million of the money to combat infectious diseases, primarily malaria, and help improve energy infrastructure in African nations.
Among the other points in the draft, ministers reiterated their commitment to preparing contingency plans against an avian flu pandemic, emphasized the importance of education programs to enhance financial literacy and reaffirmed the need to strengthen safeguards against money laundering and terrorism funding.