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G7 finance ministers discuss Covid aid for poor

LONDON, UK, Mar 19 – Britain on Friday hosts an online gathering of G7 finance ministers, with discussions focusing on aid for the poorest nations hit by the pandemic.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is hosting counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States for the meeting, held online owing to Covid-19.

The gathering, which began at 1200 GMT and is expected to last several hours, follows a similar event in February and comes before a G7 summit in Britain later this year.

Ahead of Friday’s huddle, Sunak held telephone talks with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the topic of development aid.

The pair discussed a possible new allocation of Special Drawing Rights, according to a statement from Britain’s Treasury.

SDRs, created by the International Monetary Fund in 1969, plays an influential role in global finance, helping governments protect their financial reserves against global currency fluctuations.

It is also used as the basis of loans from the IMF’s crucial crisis-lending facilities.

While not a true currency itself — there are no SDR coins or banknotes — the IMF uses it to calculate its loans to needy countries, and to set the interest rates on those loans.

“Both agreed that a new SDR allocation could form an important part of a package of support for low income countries and could be vital for securing a truly global recovery,” it added.

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“The chancellor has previously signalled that progress on a new allocation would be a priority for the UK’s G7 presidency.”

Later this year, G7 leaders including US President Joe Biden will meet at a seaside retreat in Cornwall, southwest England, on June 11-13, after last year’s summit in the United States was shelved because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain took on the rotating G7 presidency in January with hopes for greater US cooperation, as Biden restored the United States to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization.

Britain will also host a UN conference on climate change, COP26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November, with hopes of fresh commitments towards targets for net zero carbon emissions.

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