Daniel W. Drezner

My take on the G-20 summit

Reading through the final G-20 communique and some of the after-action reports, a few quick thoughts on the London summit:  As it turns out, things went a lot better than they did at Doha.  Admittedly a low bar, but still… Remember how a lot of people (rightly) criticized the Bush administration for deciding that Iraq ...

Reading through the final G-20 communique and some of the after-action reports, a few quick thoughts on the London summit: 

  • As it turns out, things went a lot better than they did at Doha.  Admittedly a low bar, but still…
  • Remember how a lot of people (rightly) criticized the Bush administration for deciding that Iraq should be the central front in the Global War on Terror external contingency operations?  That’s kind of how I feel about much of the sturm und drang surrounding the summit about tax havens and hedge fund regulation.  Neither of these things played a significant role in triggering the current financial crisis, so why all the hubbub? 
  • I confess to finding the whole tax haven obsession to be faintly amusing.  I’ve heard MEPs talk as if this step will be the cure to all of Europe’s ills.  As someone who worked on this stuff back in the day, I must applaud the G-20 for getting back to the point where the G-7 was at the very end of the Clinton administration (click here if you don’t believe me).  That’s progress, mind you, but it’s hardly earth-shattering.
  • Kevin Drum does an admirable job of comparing the draft communique with the final version to see what’s been added.  He missed a graf though.  Seriously, I’m offering 10 Special Drawing Rights to anyone able to decipher this sucker: 

In addition to reforming our international financial institutions for the new challenges of globalisation we agreed on the desirability of a new global consensus on the key values and principles that will promote sustainable economic activity. We support discussion on such a charter for sustainable economic activity with a view to further discussion at our next meeting. We take note of the work started in other fora in this regard and look forward to further discussion of this charter for sustainable economic activity.

  • It’s all about the follow-through — will the extra 1.1 trillion in IMF and MDB financing actually occur?  More importantly, will it matter?  An absence of trade finance is one reason for the contraction of the poorest countries of the world, but a bigger reason is that we’re in a global friggin’ recession.  Ending that would be the best medicine for the global economy.  Which means that…
  • While there were some significant accomplishments in London, there was no progress on the two biggest issues — financial regulation and jump-starting the global economy.  Admittedly, the degree of difficulty is high here, but on substance, the summit gets a C+.
  • On style, Obama does get an A-.  I loved this bit from Helene Cooper’s NYT story:  "In a rare show of emotion from the international press, many in the room stood up and cheered after Mr. Obama was done [with his press conference]."  C’mon, an American was on the global stage and not one shoe was thrown?  Man, times have changed.  Meawhile, as for Michelle Obama, there’s this priceless AP quote from a Buckingham Palace spokesman:  "We don’t issue instructions on not touching the queen."
 Twitter: @dandrezner

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