G7 ministers to discuss foreign-exchange rates

FOREIGN-EXCHANGE rates will be a central theme when finance ministers from the Group of Seven rich nations meet in Germany this week, Deputy German Finance Minister Thomas Mirow said yesterday.

“As at every G7 meeting, the issue of exchange rates will play an important role and the yen is an important currency too,” he said in Berlin.

Asked if the weak yen would be the biggest issue at the Essen meeting, he said: “I didn’t say that.”

“We have decided that, as holders of the presidency, we would not generate any excitement in the run up to Essen,” he added.

Asked if the final communique would change from that issued by the G7 in Singapore in September, he said: “Empirically, one can observe that the formulation of the communiques rarely changes very fundamentally, rather there are finely balanced changes, if there are changes.

“The finance ministers and central bank chiefs must be given the chance to address the issues openly and to verbalise their views. And a communique is generally something that comes after that.”

The yen retreated versus the euro and the dollar yesterday as investors grew more confident the G7 meeting would not yield a joint statement on the weakness of the Japanese currency.

Earlier, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck was quoted as saying the weaker yen would be discussed in Essen, despite US and Japanese insistence there is not a problem.

“That is why this club was founded, we have to talk about it,” he told The Wall Street Journal when asked about the yen.

European countries have complained loudly about the currency, fearing its descent to record lows against the euro is damaging their economies by making European goods and services too expensive compared with those from Japan.

Eurozone officials have won no support for addressing the yen’s value in Essen from the other G7 nations — Japan, the US, Britain and Canada.

Japan yesterday sought to play down a simmering row over whether the yen is too weak in global markets, saying the topic is unlikely to dominate the agenda at Essen.

Hedge fund transparency would also be a topic of discussion, Mr Mirow said, with the G7 addressing the systemic risks they pose.

He added Germany would take as much time as needed to get everyone in the G7 behind any hedge fund initiative.

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