IMF chief call for urgent action
IMF chief call for urgent action

The head of the International Monetary Fund wants urgent action to tackle Europe's debt problems and an approaching fiscal crisis in the US

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, addressing reporters as the IMF and World Bank began their annual meetings in Tokyo today, praised action by the European Central Bank and European governments, but said "more needs to happen, and faster".

Ms Lagarde said two senior Chinese finance officials who cancelled their trip to Tokyo amid a territorial dispute with host Japan would "lose out" by not attending.

"Our concern is that they will be missing a great meeting," she said. "We have a lot of substantive issues to discuss."

Diplomatic tensions have flared between the two Asian giants over a cluster of tiny islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

In an apparent sign of Beijing's anger, People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan was scheduled to give the event's closing speech on Sunday but the IMF said his deputy would represent him.

Ms Lagarde said economies in Asia were critical for global growth, and hoped disputes between countries in the region could be resolved for the good of economic co-operation of Asia and the world.

"We hope that differences, however longstanding, can be resolved harmoniously and expeditiously so that from an economic point of view co-operation can continue ... since we are all very closely interconnected," she said.

Japanese car sales in China plunged last month, and tens of thousands of Chinese tourists have cancelled trips to Japan, which is depending on China as a source of growth amid the global slowdown.

Later in the day, finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven richest nations will hold informal gatherings where they will likely discuss steps to address Europe's debt crisis, weaker growth in Asia and a budget impasse in the US

The IMF has scaled back its global growth forecast to 3.3 per cent for 2012 from an earlier projection of 3.5 per cent, and has warned that even its dimmer outlook might prove too optimistic if Europe and the United States fail to resolve their crises.

"We are not expecting a very, very strong recovery. The recovery continues, but it continues more slowly than we had expected earlier this year," Ms Lagarde said. The slowdown is "having a ripple effect on emerging markets, and in particular in Asia."

Ms Lagarde praised the recent decision by the European Central Bank to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help reduce borrowing costs. She also said European governments were taking steps to strengthen fiscal discipline and start to design a European banking supervision system.

"But more needs to happen and faster."

She also said the US faced major risks in the so-called "fiscal cliff" in 2013, when tax increases and deep spending cuts would take effect unless congress broke a budget impasse.

"Here, too, decisive action is expected," she said.

The West Australian

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