ECONOMY

Schaeuble says Europe?s partners see crisis-fight progress

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said finance chiefs from around the world meeting in Tokyo this week have acknowledged that Europe has made ?significant progress? in overcoming the crisis of confidence in the euro.

?This time there is a much more positive underlying sentiment? compared with earlier meetings, Schaeuble said on Friday at a briefing with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann in Tokyo, which is hosting the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings. European participants at the gathering have agreed that ?we explain very precisely and openly what we?re doing, what we?ve achieved and what progress we?ve made.?

European countries are standing by their commitments to reduce fiscal deficits, Schaeuble said, citing a 50 percent reduction in the euro region?s fiscal shortfall since 2009, to 3.2 percent of the area?s gross domestic product.

Europe is on a ?much, more promising path,? U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said on Thursday. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty described the mood toward the region as one of ?cautious optimism because it?s in a better place now.?

Europe?s strains are still the central challenge facing IMF members as they gather in Japan. The Washington-based lender said this week that failure to remedy them was contributing to an ?alarmingly high? risk of a steeper slowdown in the world economy, already on course to expand this year by the least since the 2009 recession.

Europe must avoid raising false expectations and ?misunderstandings? that can trigger disappointment, Schaeuble said, pointing to the reduction of Spain?s debt rating to one level above junk by Standard