G7 leaders agree policy mix to boost economy, discuss global crises

Ise-Shima, Japan (dpa) – G7 leaders agreed Thursday on measures required to boost economic growth, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, while papering over disagreements between Tokyo and Berlin on the best approach to take.

The leaders, meeting in the Japanese resort of Ise-Shima, also had migration on the agenda for the first day of their two-day summit, alongside global trade issues and trouble hotspots including in Russia and the South China Sea.

"The world has a certain stable growth, but their are weaknesses, especially among the emerging economies, and there is a whole series of risks," Merkel said.

Japanese Prime Minister and summit host Shinzo Abe put the economy at the forefront of the two-day talks in the hope of winning support for coordinated fiscal stimulus. Abe is facing economic headwinds at home with his much-hyped "Abenomics" programme delivering disappointing results.

But Germany in particular is opposed to the stimulus-driven approach, which Merkel rejected during a visit by the Japanese premier earlier this month. Berlin favours structural reforms to boost the economy.

The leaders' joint statement, which will be published on Friday, is expected to espouse a mix of fiscal, monetary and structural policies aimed at boosting growth.

"I think we will manage to achieve a good communique that also accepts that there has to be a balance of all measures," Merkel said.

The leaders discussed trade policy, and reaffirmed their commitment to wrap up separate free trade negotiations the EU is conducting with both Japan and the US by the end of the year.

Germany, and other European leaders, are also using the summit to draw attention to the migration and refugee crisis, which saw more than 1 million people reach Europe last year, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa.

"We are aware that it is because of geography that the most responsibility is ... placed on Europe, however we would also like the global community to show solidarity," Tusk told journalists ahead of the summit.

Tusk said he would "appeal to G7 leaders" to boost public assistance to refugees and host communities and to espouse resettlement schemes and other forms of legal migration around the world.

Merkel said she did not expect "concrete numbers" from the G7, but said that a process had been set in motion, building on progress made at a humanitarian summit in Istanbul earlier this week.

Over dinner, the leaders were due to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and the role of Russia, which was excluded from the G8 in 2014 after annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Moscow is accused of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, and has been hit with Western sanctions, with EU measures up for renewal at the end of July.

"Our stance vis-a-vis Russia, including economic sanctions, will remain unchanged as long as the Minsk agreements are not fully implemented," Tusk said, referring to the peace deal signed in the Belarusian capital.

The EU is "ready to continue with our sanctions," he added, noting that he expected a decision within the next three weeks.

Other regional flashpoints raised during the summit include Chinese claims over the South China Sea, a key shipping lane that is also claimed in various parts by five neighbouring countries.

"Any maritime or territorial claim should be based on the international law," Tusk said. "Unilateral actions and the use of force or coercion will not be accepted."

But China lashed out, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying that the G7 should "concentrate on dealing with its inner issues, rather than interfering in other country['s business]."

Before the start of the summit, Abe took the G7 leaders to the Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred site in Shinto, Japan's indigenous religion.

The G7 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, while the EU is also takes part. Italy will host the 2017 summit on the Italian island of Sicily, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced on his website.

Last update: Thu, 26/05/2016 - 21:37

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