G-20 talks: Energy likely to take centre stage

Melbourne, November 17:

Financial stewards of the world’s wealthiest economies gathered on Friday to discuss the state of the global financial system, with growing demand for energy resources and the earth’s environment likely to dominate the agenda.

Chest-high metal fences were erected and hundreds of police deployed on the streets of the southern Australian city of Melbourne in preparation for antiglobalization protests when finance ministers and central bankers meet Saturday and Sunday as the Group of 20.

Protest organizers said they hoped to draw 10,000 people. Victoria state police said demonstrations would be allowed, but illegal actions would not be tolerated.

Reform of the International Monetary Fund, rising interest rates, the Chinese and Japanese currency levels and efforts to economically isolate nuclear-armed North Korea are also likely to come up at the two-day, closed-door meetings.

IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato, who is attending the meetings, expressed satisfaction with the global economy.

“We would also like to sustain, and enable countries to benefit from, this period of unparalleled world growth - likely to approach 5 per cent next year - and low inflation,” he wrote in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper Friday.

The annual G-20 meeting brings the Group of Seven advanced countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - and the European Union together with other political and economic heavyweights including China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Korea.

Surging demand for oil and minerals from growing economies China and India have benefited commodity powers like Australia, while fanning concerns over the emergence of unstable supplies and market distortions.

Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, the meeting’s chair, said he hoped delegates would reach common ground on energy security.