IMF chief hails progress in China-US trade talks, urges "trade peace"

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA

"This is extremely good news that the United States and China are talking to each other", the Bulgarian economist said when asked by Xinhua to comment on the trade negotiations between the world's top two economies.

Finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major industrial countries said Friday that while growth has slowed, there should be a modest pickup next year as long as trade and political tensions do not worsen.

"I welcome this high-level endorsement, which demonstrates the strong support of our membership for the Fund's mission", IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said. "The focus must be on reversing tariff increases and finding lasting solutions to trade disputes, including by removing domestic distortions and strengthening the multilateral trading system".

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Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who was formerly chief executive of the World Bank, was tapped last month to take over at the International Monetary Fund, succeeding Christine Lagarde.

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The World Bank's president, David Malpass, said the slowdown in global growth was hurting efforts to help the 700 million people around the world living in extreme poverty, especially in nations trying to cope with a flood of refugees from regional conflicts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said USA trade policies, which have included tariffs on billions of dollars of imports from China and other nations, are meant to improve the rules for global trade.

The fall meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings were expected to be dominated by the trade disputes triggered by the Trump administration's get-tough policies aimed at lowering America's huge trade deficits and boosting US manufacturing jobs. So far those efforts have made little headway.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump said that Washington and Beijing concluded a "very substantial phase-one deal" for a truce in their bilateral trade war - which has been under way for more than a year.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who holds an effective veto over major Fund decisions, endorsed the move, which calls for a doubling of the IMF's crisis lending fund to about $500 billion, restoring it to levels during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

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"Our hope is to move from a trade truce to a trade peace", she told reporters.

But she said that result was not good enough and what was needed was for the United States and China to resolve all their trade issues and for all countries to work together to modernize the rules of global trade to lessen friction in the future.

Although Washington did postpone plans to increase tariffs on some $250 billion of Chinese imports - which had been due to take effect earlier this week - it is still up in the air whether another United States tariff hike due on December 15 will be implemented.

"Even if growth picks up in 2020", Georgieva said in her speech last week, "the current rifts could lead to changes that last a generation", such as "broken supply chains" and "siloed trade sectors".

Although it will take several weeks to write up the terms of the deal, the full scope of which has not yet been announced, Trump said that he and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, would sign the agreement during the November 16-17 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile.

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