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G-20 finance leaders say trade, geopolitical tensions have intensified

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Finance leaders affirm communique amid US-China trade conflict

FUKUOKA, JAPAN Group of 20 finance leaders said yesterday that trade and geopolitical tensions have "intensified", raising risks to improving global growth, but they stopped short of calling for a resolution of a deepening US-China trade conflict.

After rocky negotiations that nearly aborted the issuance of a communique, finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in southern Japan affirmed language issued in Buenos Aires last December that offered tepid support for a rules-based multilateral trading system.

"Global growth appears to be stabilising, and is generally projected to pick up moderately later this year and into 2020," the G-20 finance leaders said in a communique issued as the meetings in Fukuoka closed.

"However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks, and stand ready to take further action," the communique said.

It also said that G-20 finance leaders had agreed to compile common rules by 2020 to close loopholes used by global tech giants such as Facebook and Google to reduce their corporate taxes.

The communique contained pledges to increase debt transparency on the part of borrowers and creditors and to make infrastructure development more sustainable, after complaints that China's massive Belt and Road drive was saddling poor countries with debt they cannot repay.

But the final language excluded a proposed clause to "recognise the pressing need to resolve trade tensions" from a previous draft.

The deletion, which G-20 sources said came at the insistence of the US, shows a desire by Washington to avoid encumbrances as it increases tariffs on Chinese goods. The statement also contains no admissions that the US-China trade conflict was hurting global growth.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she "emphasised that the first priority should be to resolve the current trade tensions" while working to modernise trading rules.

The IMF warned earlier this week that while growth was still expected to improve this year and next, the US-China tariff war could lop 0.5 per cent from global GDP output in 2020, about the size of G-20 member South Africa's economy.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday he did not see any impact on US growth from the trade conflict, and the government would take steps to protect consumers from higher tariffs.

Mr Mnuchin said US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would meet at a June 28-29 G-20 summit in Osaka.