G-20: India to pitch for cautious, but stable fiscal correctives

     The fourth meeting of the Group of Twenty (G-20) to be held in Toronto at the end of this week should provide room for interesting debate and discussion between leaders of developed nations and their lesser developed counterparts. With the global economy on the slow recovery path and India reiterating its stance of maintaining course correctives, the theme of meeting -- "Recovery and New Beginnings" suggests further stock taking and review before cautiously charting the course forward. Analysts and observers appear already resigned to the inevitable i.e. -- this year G-20 is unlikely to be different to the previous three held in Washington, London and Pittsburgh, owing to the fact that the agenda and the parties involved, will pull in different directions during their assessment. India's approach to G-20 deliberations since the last summit at Pittsburgh has been cautious, yet steady, and judging by the briefings on the sidelines of the grouping's finance ministers' in Seoul, South Korea and the latest one on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Toronto on June 26th and 27th, status quo can be expected to be maintained. New Delhi has candidly acknowledged the dynamism and importance of this premier forum for international economic cooperation, and yet there any number of issues that concern it and other members. As one analyst revealed earlier this week, the two most contentious issues are (1) The European Union's (EU's) growing anxiety in addressing "sovereign debt (deficit) problems" of each economy in the region, and (2) How far will the Chinese currency - Yuan - go in redressing current global economic imbalances. The other issues that would attract the attention of the G-20 leadership are as follows: Coordinate policies for future economic growth: G-20 leaders can be expected to spend much of their time in Toronto figuring out how to manage withdrawal of government stimulus policies while pledging support growth. Many economists predict that cutting back and balancing for growth is contradictory and will be difficult. Taxing banks: This could be the flashpoint of disagreement between developed and developing nations. India has made its stance clear on this by saying its banking sector is extremely healthy, and therefore, there is no need for such a tax to finance future bailouts. New Delhi has acknowledged the progress made by banking regulators around the world for raising capital and liquidity standards, and said complete recovery is only possible through coordinated effort, rather than hit-and-run or hit-and-miss proposals. Reforming global financial institutions: The Toronto summit can be expected take stock of steps being taken to enhance fiscal governance and strengthening lending capacities. India and supporting countries would be keen to see this credibly reflected in institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). So far, concrete reforms, and progress has been slow; and G-20 finance ministers said this must "accelerate." Fighting protectionism and liberalizing global trade: Developing economies like India have already expressed concern over the reluctance of developed nations to pay back on bail-outs and their protectionist measures. The effort at Toronto will be to continue to reduce barriers to trade. Fossil fuel subsidy phase-outs: Continues to be low priority with the G-20 leaders in spite of the Pittsburgh communiqué stressing the urgency of it to facilitate promotion of clean energy. Prime Minister Singh will have a hectic schedule during his two-day stay in Toronto. He will arrive from Delhi via Frankfurt on Saturday (June 26). Following an official welcome and reception, he will have a working dinner with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and watch a cultural event. On Sunday (June 27), he takes part in the opening plenary of the G-20 summit. This will be followed by participation in other plenary sessions, a G20 Family Photograph, a leaders' working lunch, and finally the concluding Final Plenary in the afternoon. After the summit, Dr. Singh would concentrate on the bilateral component of his visit. This would include interactions with leaders of participating G-20 countries and some bilateral meetings on the sidelines. A G-20 Business Summit or B-20 will see India represented by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). A G-20 Youth Summit called the 'My Summit' will see India represented by a youth group selected by our Department of Youth Affairs. Select participants will interact briefly with the G20 leaders on the afternoon of June 27. A Toronto Summit Declaration or Communiqué will be issued to conclude the event. The G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK and the United States. Greater significance will be attached to Dr. Singh's bilateral deliberations with Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper on the evening of June 27. Following Prime Minister Harper's visit to India in November, 2009, the two countries hope to impart momentum to their existing bilateral cooperation. A number of agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) are under discussion. Inking of an agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy is almost definitely on the cards. This would take most of the international community by surprise, given the fact that Canada was once a vociferous opponent of India's nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, and took definitive steps to declare New Delhi a pariah insofar as nuclear commerce and uranium largesse was concerned. The agreement under consideration, once signed, will ensure cooperation in civil nuclear energy research, development of nuclear energy applications in the field of agriculture, healthcare industry and environment, in cooperation in the field of nuclear waste management, nuclear safety, radiation safety, and environmental protection, etc. It covers a large ambit in the area of peaceful nuclear issues. The Canadian Government's denial of visas to Indian Government officials is not expected to be taken up as Ottawa has apologized and the matter is treated as closed. India and Canada expect to take their cooperation on counter-terrorism forward during Dr. Singh's visit. Cooperation in non-conventional energy sources is likely to be assessed following a recent meeting of the bilateral Energy Panel in Canada. The Prime Minister will return to Delhi via Frankfurt on Tuesday (June 29).

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