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European economy ‘better today than it was a year ago,’ Flaherty says

In July, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a controversial plan to overhaul the regime that lets consumers seek compensation from an outside arbitrator when they believe they’ve been wronged.


Jim Flaherty, normally a critic when it comes to Europe's handling of its troubled economy, says political leaders there are starting to turn things around.

Speaking with reporters on a conference call from meetings of G7 finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund in Tokyo, Japan, Canada's finance minister said Europe has made some positive steps in recent months.

Echoing the upbeat tone of some of his counterparts – including U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – Mr. Flaherty said the outlook for Europe has improved.

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"The situation in Europe is better today than it was a year ago," said Mr. Flaherty.

The minister said there is still more to be done. Recent talk from the IMF of providing more leeway in terms of deficit targets for Europe's hardest-hit members is an option that "is certainly worth considering," he said.

Reports out of Tokyo suggest the IMF's willingness to give more time to highly-indebted European states to repair their finances is not sitting well with Germany, which remains Europe's top lender and biggest fiscal hawk.

Finance ministers are meeting in Tokyo at a time when the IMF recently downgraded its expectations for growth in most of the world's major economies.

"We're all concerned with the fact that the world economy has slowed," said Mr. Flaherty.

Mr. Flaherty also commented on the U.S. economy, where there is growing concern over the possibility of a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could be triggered shortly after the November presidential election should Democrats and Republicans fail to craft a clear plan for tackling the deficit.

"The U.S. needs to take steps to get its fiscal house in order," said Mr. Flaherty.

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