PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — Leaders of the world's top economic powers promised tough action to police financial markets and prevent a new economic crash Thursday as they gathered for G20 summit.
Security was tight in the US city of Pittsburgh as it prepared to welcome the incoming heads of state, with thousands of extra police and Secret Service officers deployed around a ring of steel and concrete barriers.
"In Pittsburgh, we will work with the world's largest economies to chart a course for growth that is balanced and sustained," US President Barack Obama told the United Nations on the eve of the summit.
"And that means... strengthening regulation for all financial centers, so that we put an end to the greed, excess and abuse that led us into disaster, and prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed his call for thorough regulation.
"Pittsburgh will be a decisive milestone in determining whether the issue of financial market regulation remains a central issue. For us this is the most important issue at this meeting," she told reporters.
But Merkel also said she would resist moves by others, including the United States, to shift the focus of the meeting on Thursday and Friday to imbalances in the global economy, including Germany's trade surplus.
"I have the impression that we are on the right path but at any time the impetus might weaken. Therefore we will really press for this not to happen," she told a news conference before leaving Berlin.
The two-day summit of the world's 19 biggest developed and emerging economies plus the European Union comes just over a year after a US credit collapse triggered a global economic slowdown.
It also comes six months after the same G20 chiefs met in London to coordinate their response to the crisis, and their performance in Pittsburgh will be judged on whether they have lived up to their earlier promises.
Summit delegates all vow to take tough and lasting measures to bring order back to the markets, shore up failing institutions, save jobs and rekindle growth, but each arrives in Pittsburgh with their own priorities. G20 participants.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday he would push other nations to impose sanctions on uncooperative tax havens starting next year.
"Tax havens, banking secrecy, that's all over," he told French television. "I will fight for sanctions tomorrow in Pittsburgh."
Last week, France and Germany pressed for caps on bankers' bonuses, amid opposition from Britain and the United States, but a watered-down compromise deal appears likely to be reached, officials said.
Britain's finance minister Alistair Darling voiced confidence the summit would strike a deal on bonuses, insisting "the party" must end for bankers.
The chancellor of the exchequer told the BBC that banks should be building up their capital. "So they shouldn't be paying money out in dividends and in large bonuses at a time when they should be rebuilding their own strength.
Obama, hosting his first global summit, also sought to convince developing and developed nations to agree on a plan to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industries that are blamed for global warming.
Emerging economies, led by India, want billions of dollars in subsidies from the developed world to help them convert to greener technologies if they are to sign up to a deal at a key climate summit in Copenhagen in December.
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the first leader to put a figure on such aid -- suggesting 100 billion dollars by 2020 -- and he said in an editorial in The New York Times that he would push the G20 for action.
Aside from financial regulation and climate change, the summit is also expected to discuss when and how to begin scaling back the multi-trillion dollar stimulus packages countries established to fight the recession.
Japan and Europe have begun to edge out of the slump and are starting to look at cuts -- cheered on by China, which fears US deficits will destabilize the dollar -- but others feel such a move would be premature.
Ahead of the talks, global ratings agency Fitch warned the G20 economies -- including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Spain -- could endanger their credit worthiness if they do not bring down public debt.
Environmental and workers' groups, as well as anti-globalization protesters are expected to converge on the city, where thousands of police reinforcements have been deployed along with hundreds of meters of steel barricades.
Anarchist groups have threatened to march on the summit venue itself, but city officials will try to confine protests to three designated areas within earshot and view of the site.
Police arrested 14 people Wednesday as Greenpeace staged a media-friendly protest by rappelling from one of Pittsburgh's iconic bridges and deploying a banner reading: "Danger. Climate destruction ahead."
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