WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Debt relief will take the spotlight at the upcoming Group of Seven finance ministers meeting in Halifax in June if its host, Canada's Finance Minister Paul Martin, has anything to say about it.
"Debt relief is very, very important for the poorest of the poor. It must be done on a basis that is sustainable," Martin told reporters on Sunday as International Monetary Fund and World Bank semi-annual meetings wrapped up, a day after the Saturday G7 finance officials' gathering here.
"The matters that were raised in the World Bank/IMF report are issues that we intend to address," he added.
Canada's position this year as leader of the G7 -- Canada, Italy, France, the United States, Britain, Japan and Germany -- and the Group of Eight -- which also includes Russia -- should help the longest-serving finance minister in the group press his case.
"This is Canada's G7/G8 year and we intend to essentially push very hard on this particular file between now and Halifax," Martin said.
Finance ministers of the G7 will gather in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on June 14-15, ahead of a summit of world leaders in Alberta later that month.
Martin said major steps were taken this weekend, and was particularly encouraged with the G7's adoption of an action plan to prevent financial crises. Under that plan, future agreements by emerging market countries to borrow money should include debt restructuring provisions that will clarify what happens if payment problems arise.
The Kananaskis, Alberta, leaders' summit on June 26-27 will pick up issues raised in Halifax, a seaside city in the scenic province of Nova Scotia, as well as those discussed by other cabinet officials at separate meetings earlier in the year.
"GOOD DISCUSSION" ON ARGENTINA
Echoing comments he made earlier this weekend, Martin said the crisis in Argentina would likely not have happened had the action plan been in place a year and a half ago.
He expressed pleasure about Canada's part in establishing the action plan, a campaign which he began four years ago, shortly after the Mexican and Asian financial crises.
The economic debacle crippling Argentina has seen Latin America's No. 3 economy suspend the operations of Scotiabank Quilmes, Bank of Nova Scotia's Argentine unit, for 30 days during which it must present a plan to boost its cash on hand.
That, in turn, raised fears the government may be unable to prevent the creaking financial system from collapsing, leading Argentina's central bank to indefinitely suspend from Monday bank and foreign exchange operations.
But Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge said on Sunday he had had a "good discussion" with his Argentine counterpart, and expressed hope that if a bill before the country's Congress passed, it would restore some faith in the battered banking system.
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