At G20, Europe finds some space to breathe on economy

Fri Sep 6, 2013 5:26am EDT
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By Luke Baker

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - For the first time in at least three years, European leaders have found themselves out of the economic firing line at a Group of 20 summit, with emerging nations' troubles taking the spotlight.

At previous meetings in Los Cabos, Cannes, Seoul and Toronto since 2010, top of the agenda has usually been Europe's debt crisis and its impact on financial markets, trade and the global economy. Europe felt whipped; the class dunce.

But nascent signs of a turnaround, with growth and exports slowly picking up, consumer confidence rising and the euro remaining stable, has given the continent respite.

Instead, it has been emerging markets, and particularly uncertainty in India and Brazil, that has been the major point of economic discussion in St. Petersburg.

"I want to tell you, at this G20 we were no longer the focus of attention," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, with a sense of relief.

"On the contrary, the words we have received were words of sincere appreciation for our efforts, recognizing that they are starting to bear fruit."

His assessment was borne out by other officials' readout on discussions although China was not alone in pressing the European Union to do more to foster growth.

"The structural problems are far from solved and now is no time to be arrogant," Deputy Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters on Thursday.   Continued...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Francois Hollande attend a meeting with business leaders in St.Petersburg September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Filippov/RIA Novosti/Pool