G7 Iqaluit meeting ends

The meeting of the G7 finance ministers ended in Iqaluit Saturday, but there was no indication whether they had found common ground to prevent banks from taking excessive risk in the future.

The meeting of the finance ministers from the world's leading economies ended in Iqaluit Saturday, but there was no indication whether the Group of Seven leaders had bridged the gaps that separated them.

The meeting, chaired by Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, addressed ways of ensuring that, in the future, the international banking system could avoid the kinds of problems that led to the continuing global recession.

"We made progress on financial sector reform," and there was agreement on principles, but putting the mechanisms in place is another matter, he told CBC News.

The process of preventing banking failures will continue at the G20 meeting in June, he said.

G7 member countries have taken divergent approaches and some had previously rejected ideas advanced by others.

Flaherty has said that the robust Canadian banking system does not need the fixes proposed by other countries.

"Canadians did not have to put taxpayers' money into our financial institutions. We did not have to bail them out," Flaherty said Jan. 27. "It is a rather different situation in other jurisdictions, like the U.S."

Britain has taxed bankers' bonuses as a way to curb excessive risk-taking.

The U.S. government has proposed a ban on banks trading for their own account, using their own assets, as one way of reducing risk.

However, the G7 meeting — which also included ministers from France, Germany, Italy and Japan — did reach agreement on some non-contentious issues, such as the need to continue stimulus spending.

"We certainly decided to stay the course," Flaherty said.

The two-day meeting, informal "fireside" chats between the ministers, began Friday. It was the first G7 meeting to be held in Iqaluit.

Europeans boycott community feast

A summit-ending community feast with raw seal among other dishes was boycotted by the ministers and central bankers of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who was born in the Northwest Territories, were the only participants to make an appearance at the event.

At a concluding news conference, the subject of seal hunting and the proposed European ban on seal products drew no response from European officials.

When a reporter asked the four finance ministers if their stay in Iqaluit had taught them a lesson about the importance of seal in the Canadian North, they exchanged glances, lowered their heads, but said nothing.

Finally their host, Flaherty, came to the rescue by pointing out the European Union makes an exception with respect to the indigenous Inuit people.

"The European Union makes a specific example with respect to Inuit people who for thousands of years have relied on the seal as part of their survival," he said. "That is the view of the European Union and it is certainly our view in Canada."

With files from The Canadian Press