India disagrees that China's current, capital account surpluses are causing global predicament

As a further indication of the fact that the pre-Summit negotiations of the G-20 are not going very smoothly, India has said that “there are no universally agreed upon diagnoses of what ails the global economy.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed this to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and President Philip Calderon of Mexico on Thursday during his bilateral meetings with them. This indicates that it disagrees with the United States' perception that only China's current account and capital account surpluses are to blame for the global economic predicament.

Dr. Singh also met the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in a bilateral meeting.

According to informed sources, the final G20 communiqué could run to about 70 pages, reflecting the divergent views.

It has been evident that far too many differences of opinion on key issues of who has to do what have emerged and delegates have even been heard to “raise their voices,” according to an informed source.

The main issue is an old one, namely, that the U.S. and its allies do whatever they want to and then expect others to adjust their policies accordingly. The American decision to pump in $600 billion over the next few months has left everyone jumpy as to the consequences for their economies.

Brazil has already spoken out sharply against this. A Chinese official said on television that if America catches a cold it can't look for Chinese medicines.

China has already taken pre-emptive action against capital surges by asking Chinese banks to deposit more money with the Central bank. Many G-20 members have already put sand in the machine so that destabilising dollar inflows do not cause problems for them.

As a result of the U.S. decision, there are not many takers for the latest American proposal which seeks, as it were, to walk on four legs. In a letter to the G20, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, along with Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore Finance Ministerand Wayne Swan, Finance Minister of Australia, have spelt out the four things that the world needs to do.

First, they say, global economic growth must be strengthened; second, in a manner of reminiscent of national policies, they say, global growth must also be balanced across countries so that some countries do not grow at a breakneck speed, while others languish; third, the first two objectives require the world to create “a new framework for cooperation to allow exchange rates to reflect economic fundamentals and support needed structural reforms;” and fourth, no protectionism, please.

The first and the last items are the only ones on which there is no disagreement. But the second and third suggestions are causing problems.

Informed sources told Business Line that India is sitting pretty during all these negotiations as it does what economic theory prescribes, namely, run a deficit on the current account which is financed by a surplus on the capital account. This is in contrast to “some countries” which run a surplus on both accounts.

India is, therefore, focusing on development by asking the developed world to invest in infrastructure in the developing countries. This is a relatively non-controversial issue.

However, India is being asked to endorse the currency adjustment suggestions and is looking for alternative and more ambiguous wording.

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