Yellen calls on APEC finance ministers to boost growth potential sustainably

By David Lawder

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on Pacific Rim finance ministers on Monday to boost the productive capacity of their economies while working to finance the transition to low-carbon energy and provide more opportunities for the poor.

Opening a meeting of finance ministers of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries, Yellen said the group’s economic dynamism meant the actions they take matter for addressing global challenges.

Yellen said in prepared remarks that the 21 APEC economies needed to collaborate to meet goals for the 2023 U.S. hosting year of creating an “open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community.”

A day after the APEC Secretariat issued new forecasts for slowing growth next year citing the inflation fight and U.S.-China tensions, Yellen said the group needed to increase potential output.

“We need to further improve our long-term economic outlook by boosting labor supply, innovation, and infrastructure investment, in ways that are also sustainable and reduce inequality,” Yellen said.

“We need to put ourselves on a sustainable growth path, one where we safeguard our planet while providing our economies with the clean energy they need to grow. And we need to leverage emerging technologies to drive innovation while maintaining safe financial markets,” Yellen added.

Treasury released a research paper saying expenditures to reduce carbon emissions now would reduce costlier damages from more frequent and powerful storms, floods and forest fires.

It cited research estimating that spending $50 billion per year to build higher bridges and move transportation routes inland for 136 coastal cities around the world would reduce expected annual economic losses from climate change in 2050 by nearly $1 trillion.

The APEC finance ministers meeting precedes the APEC leaders’ summit this week and a high-stakes meeting between U.S.-President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at easing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

On Friday, Yellen agreed with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, to “intensify communication”, while warning Beijing’s new economic czar to crack down on Chinese that are aiding Russia’s Ukraine war effort.

The agenda for the meeting includes bringing more workers into APEC country workforces, investments in infrastructure and research and mobilizing resources to accelerate net-zero emissions goals. Yellen cited the Just Energy Transition Partnerships for Vietnam and Indonesia, financed by G7 countries, multilateral development banks and private sector investors as prime examples.

The meeting also includes discussions on developing carbon markets and Treasury’s principles for financial firms’ net-zero pledges that will require their lending and investments to align with goals to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century, “responsible development” of digital assets.

Yellen is due to hold a closing news conference on Monday evening.

(Reporting by David LawderEditing by Alistair Bell and David Gregorio)