David Cameron admitted today that the agreement reached at the G20 summit in South Korea was not "heroic", and brushed off suggestions that Britain had been no more than a spectator to an argument between China and the United States.
The gathering in Seoul had been dominated by rising tensions between the two economic superpowers. The US had accused China of keeping the value of its currency artificially low to give it an unfair competitive advantage. Talks dragged into the small hours, with South Korean attempts to find a form of words acceptable to both countries floundering. Officials from Britain, France and Russia were called in to help, and Mr Cameron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel also held talks with the summit's hosts. An uneasy truce between Washington and Beijing was eventually brokered.
So now the world leaders have agreed to spend the next year drawing up "indicative guidelines" on countries' appropriate currency levels. They also promised to refrain from the "competitive devaluation" of their currencies. The agreement falls far short of President Barack Obama's demand for a swift rise in the value of the yuan to help ease global trade imbalances. But securing Chinese agreement to allow outside scrutiny of its currency was an important achievement.
Mr Cameron returns to Britain having secured a relatively modest haul of deals from the Chinese leg of his visit, including a $900m contract for Rolls-Royce and an agreement to allow the export of live breeding pigs.Reuse content