Nov 11, 2010

G20 summit unearthing new world economy path

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."

Google is not building a social network to compete Facebook

The world's most demanded and user-friendly Internet search leader Google Inc is not building a social network to compete with Facebook, a company executive reiterated on Thursday, despite an intensifying rivalry between the two leading Internet groups.

"We're not working on a social network platform that's just going to be another social network platform," Google's head of mobile product development, Hugo Barra, said in answer to a question at the Monaco Media Forum.

"We do think that social networking is an ingredient for success for any application going forward, search and advertising being probably the best two examples that I would mention. So that's how we're thinking about the problem."

Social networking has exploded in popularity and begun to reshape the balance of power in the Web industry. Facebook, launched in 2004, has more than 500 million members.

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said in September the company intended to add "layers" of social networking to its sites, rather than unveil a flashy product, but his remarks failed to quash speculation about a Google social network.

Google owns the social network Orkut, which is popular in Brazil and India but has failed to expand significantly beyond those markets.

This week, Google internally announced plans to boost salaries by 10 percent in a move widely seen as an effort to staunch a stream of engineers and managers leaving Google for faster-growing rivals like Facebook.

Google also said recently it planned to block Facebook and other Web services from accessing its users' information, accusing Facebook of failing to reciprocate.