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October 14, 2013

World finance officials pledge to deal with global risks

WASHINGTON — World finance officials pledged on Saturday to deal with new risks to the global recovery while they kept up pressure on the United States to address the biggest threat of all — a market-rattling default on U.S. debt.

The International Monetary Fund’s policy committee said the United States needed to take “urgent action” to address the budget impasse that has blocked approval of legislation to increase the government’s borrowing limit before a fast-approaching Thursday deadline.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who has shuttled between the global finance talks and negotiations with Congress over the debt ceiling, has warned that he will exhaust his borrowing authority Thursday and the government will face the prospect of defaulting on its debt unless Congress raises the current $16.7 trillion borrowing limit.

Across town from the global finance meetings Saturday, an effort at the Capitol to pass a one-year extension of the borrowing limit failed to get sufficient votes. But in a more hopeful sign, negotiations to end a partial government shutdown, now in its 12th day, and raise the debt ceiling began between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders.

Global finance officials were nervously monitoring those talks during their three days of discussions, held around the annual meetings of the 188-nation IMF and its sister lending agency, the World Bank.

At a concluding news conference, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stressed the urgency for Washington policymakers to reach agreement on raising the debt ceiling before the Thursday deadline.

Kim said if the debt ceiling is not increased, the economic fallout could include increased interest rates, slower global economic growth and falling business confidence. Such an outcome, he said, would have a “disastrous impact” on poor nations.

Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, said Saturday that he found it “unthinkable that an agreement won’t be found.” Draghi expressed hope that a resolution could be found soon.

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