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G20 seeks to banish 'economic warfare' fears

G20 finance ministers sought Saturday to convince markets at a meeting in Moscow they would not slide into "economic warfare" with competitive devaluations of currencies to boost activity.

British Finance Minister George Osborne warned of the dangers of slugging out a currency war but expressed confidence the ministers would give a clear signal in their final communique that it is markets and not governments who determine exchange rates.

The worries -- similar to previous disputes with China -- have been set off by Japan's plan of monetary easing to boost inflation and activity by reducing the value of the yen under new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But G20 states -- including Japan -- are later expected to adopt a statement in their communique broadly similar to that issued by the G7 leading developed economies last week emphasising markets alone should set forex rates.

"There was a very clear G7 statement this week," Osborne told reporters in Moscow. "You will see later today that the G20 will echo what the G7 has said."

"Currencies should not be used as a tool of competitive devaluation. The world should not make the mistake that it has made in the past of using currencies as the tools of economic warfare," the British chancellor of the exchequer added.

European capitals fear that devaluations of currencies like the yen would make their own exports less competitive and harm extremely fragile economic recoveries at home.

The G7 group of the world's richest nations -- including Japan -- issued a statement this week to calm markets by declaring a commitment to "market-determined exchange rates".

The United States has urged the world to refrain from "competitive devaluation", a message echoed by the EU commission, France and Germany.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said that all the states were agreed that there should be no currency war and there was no question of "putting pressure on this or that central bank".

He said that in the initial meetings it had been made clear that "monetary policy should not be used for the exchange rate".

For the first time in several international meetings, the concerns over currencies have overshadowed the economic troubles of the debt-ridden euro zone which leaders hope is heading to a gentle recovery.

All the G20 states are to a greater or lesser extent faced with the same dilemma -- how to boost fragile growth rates without overextending budget deficits or alienating international partners.

According to a source close to the negotiations, the Moscow communique will not mention fixed targets for budget deficits but rather insist on the need to define credible strategies in the medium term.

"We will insist on the necessity to have credible strategies in the medium term which are adapted to the economic situation," a European finance official said.

Osborne, Moscovici and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Saturday meanwhile launched a new drive to help national budgets by making big business pay full taxes and not minimise payments through schemes such as offshore companies.

The two-day G20 meeting, being hosted by Russia for the first time as it holds the presidency of the world's leading economies, is a prime chance for Moscow to present itself as a reliable global economic player.

Russia has set the task during its presidency -- which will culminate in the G20 summit from September 5-6 in Saint Petersburg -- of launching a "new cycle of growth" through investment, transparency and regulation.

The main challenge for the G20 is to "bring the world economy out of stagnation and uncertainty, and move on a firm path towards growth," President Vladimir Putin told the ministers as the meeting opened on Friday.