G7 finance ministers plan call on Tuesday on coronavirus: sources

Medical staff at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan, China on Feb. 28. Source: AFP via Getty Images

ROME/PARIS (Reuters) – G7 finance ministers are expected to hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss measures to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, people familiar with the arrangements told Reuters.

The call is planned for 1200 GMT (7 a.m. EST), two and a half hours before U.S. stock markets open, sources in France and Italy said.

The outbreak is plunging the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Monday, urging governments and central banks to fight back to avoid an even steeper slump.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank said they stood ready to help member countries deal with the coronavirus outbreak, including through emergency funding.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that G7 countries will take “concerted action” to limit the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on economic growth and their finance ministers will discuss by phone this week how best to act.

“There will be a concerted action. Yesterday I spoke with the G7 president, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and this week we will have a meeting by phone of the finance G7 ministers to coordinate our responses,” Le Maire told France 2 television.

He also said that euro zone finance ministers would also be in touch with each other and that he would speak with European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde.

“We must act so that this impact that we know will be important on growth, be as limited as possible,” he added.

Le Maire said that when the coronavirus outbreak was limited to China, he had expected the crisis to shave 0.1 percentage points off French economic growth this year.

“Now that the outbreak is reaching other countries, the impact on French growth will be much more significant,” he said, adding it was too early to provide a new figure.

He reiterated that the hotel, restaurant, air transport and event industries were the worst hit sectors in France.

As of Sunday, France has 130 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon, said on Sunday, raising the count from 100 a day earlier.