Rich nations seek action on rising food prices
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TOKYO: Development ministers from wealthy nations called Sunday for action to confront soaring food prices, which they said hurt developing nations as well as efforts by donors to help them.
Ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations said that development assistance needed to be strengthened, and partnership increased between traditional donors and new donors, like emerging Asian countries.
But rising food prices, which were not on the official agenda for the meeting, and partly for that reason were not included in the summary statement, became a hot topic on the final day of the two-day meeting in Tokyo.
“Spikes in food prices cause serious problems for development as a whole, especially for Africa, and we shared the view that this is something the international community needs to tackle,” Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura of Japan, chairman of the meeting, said during a news conference.
“We reached a common determination that there is the need to take necessary steps,” he added, without specifying details.
This month, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, called for a new coordinated global response to spiraling food prices, which are exacerbating food shortages around the globe.
Severe weather in producing countries and a spike in demand from fast-developing countries have pushed up prices of staple foods by 80 percent since 2005. Last month, rice prices hit a 19-year high; wheat prices rose to a 28-year high and almost twice the average price of the past 25 years, Zoellick added.
Alain Joyandet, the French secretary of state for cooperation and French-speaking countries, said that France was concerned about the rising cost of food, which he said could affect the aid programs of donors.
Some Asian countries that attended “outreach meetings” on the sidelines of the conference with the ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia said problems of rising food prices should be taken up at a G-8 summit meeting in July in Japan, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. But the official said there had not been enough time at the weekend to discuss any concrete steps to tackle food prices.
The weekend meeting, to set the groundwork for development issues at the G-8 summit meeting, took place halfway into the calendar for the UN Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight globally agreed targets to be reached by 2015.
The goals, set in 2000, range from halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day, to providing universal primary education and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Experts say most countries could fail to meet the UN goals.
Europe to seek bank dataEurope will press the G-7 group of industrialized economies this week to demand more disclosure from banks on their securitization activities and the exotic securities behind the global credit crunch, Reuters reported from Brdo, Slovenia on Saturday.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the 15 countries that have adopted the euro also agreed during two days of talks to express concern over excessive exchange-rate volatility during the meeting in Washington on Friday by envoys from the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain , Germany, France and Italy.
The European Union also issued a statement expressing its approval of a recent agreement that gives countries like China and India more voting rights within the International Monetary Fund.
“To increase transparency and restore confidence, ministers and governors call on financial institutions to make full and immediate disclosure of on- and off-balance-sheet risk exposures and losses,” the statement said.
It noted varying practices on disclosure and said it was time to consider extra guidelines by mid-2008.
During meetings in Slovenia, which eventually included all 27 countries of the European Union, the basic message was that Europe was doing its part to address market turmoil and had a sounder financial supervisory system than the United States.
In another document, the Europeans made it clear that bailouts were the last of last resorts. “The use of public money to resolve a crisis can never be taken for granted and will only be considered to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy and when overall social benefits are assessed to exceed the cost of recapitalization at public expense,” said the document, which was described as a memorandum of understanding on financial security principles.
Backing the IMF voting overhaul, the EU said that the voting rights changes “will achieve a significant shift in the representation of dynamic economies, many of which are emerging market countries, and give poorer countries a greater say in running the multilateral institution.”
The plan would increase the voting shares of China, India and Brazil. At the same time, it would reduce that of countries like Russia and Argentina, and slightly lower those of the Germany, Britain, France and others.