The Group of 20 has tried on Thursday at Seoul of South Korea to agree how to put the world economy on a sounder footing as renewed fears over Ireland's ability to pay its debts underscored the lingering fallout of the global financial crisis.
The G20 had hoped to use the two-day summit to recapture the unity forged in the depths of the crisis two years ago in order to soothe tensions over exchange rates generated by imbalances between cash-rich exporting nations and debt-burdened importers.
But even as U.S. President Barack Obama voiced confidence that leaders would find a formula for more balanced and sustainable growth, negotiators squabbled over the language in a closing statement to be issued when the summit ends on Friday.
"The persistence of these imbalances is a problem in the long term and these things have to be addressed," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"Will they be addressed at this conference? I'm not so sure, but I think we're getting a more frank discussion on some of these matters, that they do have to be resolved," he said.
The meeting has been billed as a chance for rich nations to strike a grand bargain on how to rejuvenate the world economic order with emerging powerhouses like India and China.
But leaders appeared unlikely to venture far beyond agreements reached by their finance ministers last month.
"The real issue is, given that it is a problem, how do we coordinate policy? I don't think you should be too demanding ... because such policy coordination has never been attempted before," India's chief G20 negotiator, Montek Singh Ahluwalia said.
A major irritant in the run-up to the summit has been the Federal Reserve's $600 billion bond-buying spree to revive the U.S. economy, which emerging markets fear will trigger a flood of money into their markets, boosting inflation and asset prices.
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan stirred that pot, saying the U.S. central bank's policy was deliberately weakening the dollar.
"The U.S. will never do that," U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shot back in an interview with CNBC. "We will never seek to weaken our currency as a tool to gain competitive advantage or to grow the economy."
Geithner again criticized China's currency policies, saying the world's second-largest economy risked stoking inflation pressures. China earlier reported that consumer price inflation had hit a 25-month high in October.
Yu Jianhua, an official with China's Ministry of Commerce, said Beijing had no intention to confront the United States over currencies or trade issues.
But, Yu added, Washington "should not politicize the yuan issue, should not blame others for its domestic problems and should not force others to take medicine for its own disease."