WASHINGTON – Searching for ways to tackle the unfolding economic crisis, global finance ministers are turning attention to the fallout in developing countries and poor nations.
President Bush and world financial leaders sought to display unity Saturday as a way to calm investors whose panic has spread despite stepped up government action.
The crisis dominated discussions at the meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the annual sessions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Many participants spoke in unusually somber tones of the need for action.
The talks shifted Sunday to the World Bank and its policy-setting committee, led by Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens and the bank's president, Robert Zoellick, a former U.S. diplomat and trade negotiator.
As a result of the downturn, developed countries are not expected to help 28 countries facing twin shocks of rising food and fuel prices, Zoellick said. "For the poor, the costs of the crisis could be lifelong," he said.
Bush said his administration was doing everything possible to halt the biggest market disruption since the Great Depression. Accompanied by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, he participated for about 25 minutes in a discussion late Saturday with the Group of 20 nations, which includes wealthy countries as well as major developing countries such as China, Brazil and India.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush acknowledged the problem began in the United States, but told participants that "we're all in this together."
"We take this seriously and we want to work with you," Bush assured the ministers, according to Fratto.
In a joint statement the G-20 finance officials pledged to work together "to overcome the financial turmoil, and to deepen cooperation to improve the regulation, supervision and the overall functioning of the world's financial markets."
Other speakers at a policy meeting of the IMF echoed Bush in emphasizing the need for countries to work together to address the crisis, avoiding the go-it-alone projectionist trade strategies that worsened conditions during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"There is a resolve in the international community that this crisis will be resolved, that no tools will be spared to address its ramifications," said Youssef Boutros Ghali, Egypt's finance minister and the new chairman of the policy panel.
European leaders were meeting Sunday in Paris in search of a common response to the crisis. It could be a complex exercise for the 15 heads of state or government of the euro-zone, where the euro currency is used, because of the varied financial landscapes in each country.