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G20 finance leaders in Bali to tackle Ukraine and inflation

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By AP
Delegate members listen as Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani delivers her speech during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali.
Delegate members listen as Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani delivers her speech during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali.   -   Copyright  Sonny Tumbelaka/Pool photo via AP

Top financial officials from the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations met on the Indonesian island of Bali on Friday seeking strategies to counter the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine, inflation and other global crises.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati opened the two-day meeting by urging fellow finance ministers, central bank chiefs and other leaders to find ways to “build bridges, not walls.” She said the consequences of failure, especially for less wealthy nations, would be “catastrophic.”

“Millions and millions if not billions of people are depending on us," Indrawati said.

The meetings in Bali's Nusa Dua resort town follow a gathering there of foreign ministers earlier this month that failed to find common ground over Russia’s war in Ukraine and its global impacts.

A G-20 finance meeting in Washington, D.C. in April saw officials from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada and Ukraine walk out to protest the attendance of Russian envoys. That meeting ended without the release of a joint statement.

Still, the G-20 financial meetings have the advantage of being less political in nature, Indrawati said.

Indonesia, as host, has tried to act as an “honest broker," she said, uniting a divided East and West within the G-20, a schism that has sharpened since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

There's no “playbook" for how to find agreement given the unprecedented tensions over the war, Indrawati said.

The financial leaders are searching for ways to coordinate how they shepherd their economies through inflation that is running at 40-year highs, unsnarling supply chains and bottlenecks due to the coronavirus pandemic and fortifying financial systems against future risks.

The G-20 managed to bridge differences in coping with the 2008 global financial crisis and the pandemic, said Indrawati.

“The actions we take will have a very important effect for the world," she said.

One key goal of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and some other Western financial officials is gaining agreement on setting a price cap on Russian oil that might help bring energy costs under control and alleviate the decades-high inflation seen in many countries while also limiting Moscow's access to revenues to fund its war effort.

“A price cap on Russian oil is one of our most powerful tools to address the pain Americans and families across the world are feeling at the gas pump and the grocery store right now, a limit on the price of Russian oil,” Yellen said at a news briefing Thursday in Bali that was shown online.

Yellen said no price had yet been determined for such a cap, but the level would have to be one “that clearly gives Russia an incentive to continue to produce, that would make production profitable for Russia.”

She said she was “hopeful” that countries such as China and India that recently boosted imports of Russian crude oil, sold at steep discounts, would see it as being in their own self-interest to observe the price cap.

Without a price cap, a European Union and probably a US ban on providing insurance and other financial services would take effect. “So, we’re proposing an exception that would allow Russia to export as long as the price doesn’t exceed a yet-to-be-determined level,” Yellen said.

Yellen did not say if she would walk out of the closed-door meeting Friday during a speech by Russia's representative to the talks. But she said it could not be “business as usual with respect to Russia’s participation at these meetings.”

At last week's meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were present in the same room at the same time for the first time since the Ukraine war began but they pointedly ignored each other.

Lavrov walked out of the proceedings at least twice: once when his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock spoke at the opening session and again just before Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was to speak by video at the second session, according to a Western diplomat present.

Caught in the middle as host, Indonesia has urged officials from all sides to overcome mistrust for the sake of a planet confronting multiple challenges from the coronavirus to climate change to Ukraine.

Indonesia is among the developing countries contending with shortages and rising prices of fuel and grain due to the war and it says the G-20 has a responsibility to step up and ensure the rules-based global order remains relevant.