EU says G20 not to focus on China financial calls

Europe is comfortable with China’s growing world role but believes the G20 summit will be too early to decide on Beijing’s calls for more say in global financial bodies, the EU Commissioner for External Relations said on Sunday.

European Union Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters in Beijing that the London gathering of 20 major wealthy and developing powers this week would focus on “concrete results” to revive the global economy, not more distant issues.

China caused a stir ahead of the summit on Thursday when it suggested the world move to greater use of IMF Special Drawing Rights as an international reserve currency.

“I don’t think that this will be the question that really will be discussed thoroughly in London,” Ferrero-Waldner said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

Likewise, she said, China’s call for a bigger role in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial bodies would not be a focus of the summit.

“I think it’s too early for us to give a really concrete answer,” she said of these calls. “I think it is within the IMF, it is within the international financial institutions, that these questions have to be discussed.”

The idea of a new reserve currency system based on the IMF special drawing rights has not been entirely knocked down, but many G20 leaders have made clear that for now the US dollar’s status as the dominant reserve unit remains.

Ferrero-Waldner is seeking to smooth differences between Brussels and Beijing before the G20 meeting and a planned summit between China and the EU in May.

She said China’s growing economic clout naturally meant more of an international role for Beijing.

“With the prosperity of China’s economy, we of course have seen more self-assertiveness in policy and diplomacy,” she said, adding that Beijing had taken a “very constructive attitude” in many international issues, such as climate change negotiations.

Chinese officials were angered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist spiritual leader, in December, when France held the six-monthly rotating EU presidency.

China condemns the Dalai Lama as a separatist for demanding high-level autonomy for his homeland.

Beijing is still giving Sarkozy the cold shoulder, but relations with the EU have improved, with Premier Wen Jiabao visiting Brussels and other capitals in February.

Ferrero-Waldner said she hoped Beijing and Brussels would seal a new framework treaty governing their ties by the end of the year. - Reuters

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