BRISBANE, Australia - The United States cannot "carry the world economy", President Barack Obama said Saturday, as the G20 readies an action plan that could boost growth prospects for rich and poor nations alike.
Leaders of the world's top industrial economies are meeting in Brisbane to nail down ways to boost their combined growth by at least two trillion dollars via domestic policy reforms, and so generate millions of new jobs.
The US economy is finally kicking into gear just as challenges emerge elsewhere to the world outlook, notably in Europe, China and Japan. Obama urged his G20 colleagues to work harder to rev up growth.
"Over the last few years the US has put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined," he said on the sidelines of the summit, with the US unemployment rate falling to 5.8 per cent in October, its lowest level since July 2008.
"But America can't be expected to just carry the world economy on our back.
"So here in Brisbane the G20 has a responsibility to act, to boost demand and invest more in infrastructure and create good jobs for the people of all our nations." The G20 leaders were initially expected to sign off on a vow to lift growth by two per cent over the currently projected level in the next five years.
But a draft copy of the Brisbane Action Plan said that, owing to worries about sluggish conditions worldwide, the leaders will agree to reforms that could accelerate growth by 2.1 per cent.
"We have developed comprehensive growth strategies that address these challenges," the plan says, according to The Australian newspaper.
"Analysis by the IMF and OECD indicates that full implementation of these strategies will lift our collective GDP by 2.1 per cent through to 2018 above the trajectory implied by the policies at the time of the St Petersburg summit (last year)."
'Hope and optimism'
G20 nations, which make up 85 per cent of the world economy, plan to meet the goal by accelerating infrastructure investment, financial reform and encouraging free trade.
The newspaper said a new overseer, run by the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, would monitor the G20 commitments and hold countries to account if they do not deliver.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the G20 host, admitted global growth was fragile but said "the message that should come from us over these next two days is a message of hope and optimism".
"Yes, our world can grow and, yes, our world can deliver the jobs that our people want," he said in opening remarks to the world leaders before their closed-door talks.
"It is not just what we want to achieve, it is how we will deliver it. We believe that, as a result of the work that we will do, the world can grow by more than two per cent more over the next five years than would otherwise be the case." Whether the rhetoric can be matched by results remains to be seen with growth disappointing in Europe while Japan is once again pumping out huge amounts of money to prop up its economy and even China is starting to falter.
Ahead of the G20, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the global economy could not endure a "European lost decade", criticising "status quo policies" in the eurozone.
Obama, who jetted into Brisbane early Saturday after attending an East Asia summit in Myanmar and the APEC forum on Asia-Pacific trade in Beijing, highlighted abolishing protectionism and cracking down on corruption as key to hitting growth goals.
In parallel, the G20 nations are working to close corporate loopholes that allow some multinational companies to pay barely anything in tax, after a major dispute erupted over Luxembourg's sweetheart domicile deals with a slew of firms.