WASHINGTON, D.C.: Clouds are gathering over the world’s economic leaders ahead of a meeting in Peru to confront the fallout of a China-sparked commodity price crash that has rocked once-powerful emerging markets.
The impending prospect of a US interest rate hike, the first in nine years, further darkens the horizon for the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors who meet in the Peruvian capital of Lima next week.
There is “reason to be concerned,” International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said in the run-up to the October 9-11 meetings IMF and World Bank.
“The prospect of rising interest rates in the United States and China’s slowdown are contributing to uncertainty and higher market volatility,” the IMF chief added.
“There has been a sharp deceleration in the growth of global trade. And the rapid drop in commodity prices is posing problems for resource-based economies.”
The IMF is to release new forecasts for the world economy on Tuesday, likely to reflect the gloom hovering most of all over emerging-market economies, whose woes have overshadowed crises in debt-troubled Greece and Ukraine.
“It is difficult to gauge the possible negative confidence effects on the other emerging-market economies and the global economy as a whole,” said Andreas Dombret, a member of the executive board of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank.
Coupled with the woes in Russia, the bottom line appears clear: After driving growth in the global economy during the 2008-2009 crisis, the major emerging economies, with the exception of India, are sputtering.
That was the conclusion of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) when it slightly lowered its forecasts for global growth in mid-September.
“Economic recovery is progressing in the world’s advanced economies, but stagnating world trade and deteriorating conditions in financial markets are curbing growth prospects in many of the major emerging economies,” the OECD said.
Emerging economies also face risks from the US Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates, probably this year, for the first time since 2006, an issue expected to be discussed at length in Peru.
The prospect of a US rate rise, which would boost returns on US investments, has raised concerns at the IMF and World Bank, worried that it could lure investors to switch funds out of emerging economies and into the United States.
Besides the flight of capital from emerging economies, a shift of capital into the United States could further strengthen the dollar, the currency in which the debt of many companies is based.
Companies in emerging economies, where corporate debt has quadrupled in the past 10 years, according to the IMF, could pay a steep price, forced into bankruptcies that hit banks and public finances. “A vicious cycle,” Lagarde said.
“They would do well to buckle their seat belts in case the ride gets bumpy,” the World Bank has warned.
Progress on global warming?
Despite the clouds, finance leaders may find reasons for comfort in Peru, the first South American country to host the annual IMF-World Bank meetings in nearly 50 years.
The United States, the largest economy, seems to be doing modestly well, while two major international issues could see advances during the 188-nation meetings on October 9-11, which will include multiple forums, conferences and news conferences.
Two months ahead of the Paris global climate summit, the finance chiefs may provide details on their $100 billion (90-billion-euro) annual contribution, pledged in Copenhagen in 2009, to fight against global warming.
“Has that pledge been met and how is that calculated, that will be a big topic,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute, a non-governmental organization.
In Lima, the G20 finance officials also are expected to approve a broad action plan aimed at battling multinationals’ strategies to reduce their tax burdens and shelter profits in tax havens.
These tax dodges are “a form of corruption that hurts the poor” by depriving their countries of public revenues, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday.
The G20 agreement would be finalized in November in Turkey at a summit of the leaders of the major advanced and emerging economies.