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G-20 nations asked to step up global food aid

Lael Brainard

Lael Brainard

The Treasury Department is urging G-20 countries whose economies are growing to donate more foreign and global food security aid to make up for whatever reductions there may be from the traditional G-8 donor countries that are experiencing economic difficulties, a key Treasury official said today.

In a speech to the Women’s Foreign Policy Group that focused on the economic troubles in Europe, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard said that the United States is encouraging the traditional donors to maintain foreign aid programs, but “is also looking outside the G-8 to make up some of the financing” of foreign aid programs, including global food security.

Brainard said the United States wants the flow of aid to Africa and the “Arab Spring” countries to continue. In a brief interview after the speech, Brainard praised Australia and Korea for their contributions.

Brainard’s comments came only days after the White House Office of Management and Budget said it would recommend to President Barack Obama that he veto the House version of the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture appropriations bill, partly over international food aid.

In a statement of administration policy issued last Thursday, OMB said, “The administration strongly opposes the $250 million reduction in funding from the FY 2013 budget request for Food for Peace Title II international food aid. The funding level would severely reduce the United States’ ability to respond to food crises abroad and to make investments that both save lives and help prevent future crises. Title II programs help to stabilize conditions for vulnerable groups in the face of drought, conflict, and other shocks.”

(See more details on the administration’s view on this bill in story below.)

Brainard said the Treasury Department is involved in trying to help the European Union with its economic problems and also encouraging China to change some of its economic policies as a way to boost the global economy.

She said she believes the European countries are strongly committed to keeping all 17 countries that use the euro currency in the eurozone and not willing to let Greece leave the zone.

“We don’t see any wavering from that commitment,” she said.

The difficulty, she added, is that making policy in the eurozone requires the approval of 17 country parliaments, while capital markets move much more quickly. In today’s fast moving economy, she added, finance ministry officials have had to try to make policy over a weekend before markets open again.

The U.S. economy “has gained some momentum, but is still fragile,” she said, adding that Europe is very important to the U.S. economy because 15 percent of U.S. exports go to Europe, and European banks are “highly active globally.”

China’s quick rise, Brainard said, “has presented a unique level of opportunities and challenges.” But China’s growth model of depending on exports, low protection of intellectual property and currency policies is not sustainable, she said. China needs to increase domestic consumption, she said, by cutting tariffs and consumption taxes.

Noting that there are more female heads of countries than there are female finance ministers, Brainard told the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, which includes women who are diplomats and corporate executives as well as young women training for those positions, that “The world of financial diplomacy could use a few more good women.”