David Usborne: Choppy waters ahead in world of Realpolitik

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Is Canada hoping to preen this weekend as it plays host first to the G8 today and from tomorrow night the G20 summit? All countries would – Britain basked aplenty last year when the circus came to London – which is why little has been spared in preparing for the two gatherings. So no one had better grumble.

Actually the sniping had begun even before Britain's newcomer to the party, David Cameron, fussed about "grand talking shops". Already irked are many Canadians. Their government, otherwise engaged – like almost everyone here – in tackling a budget deficit, has spent $1.2bn on the twin events.

It hasn't helped, perhaps, that two different venues had to be readied. Leaders of the G8 will head this morning to a rustic resort two-and-a-half hours north of Toronto, recently encircled by a costly steel fence to keep would-be intruders out. But then tomorrow the larger G20 affair will kick off in downtown Toronto, which already resembles something close to a military fortress. That organisers have perhaps erred on the side of extravagance can be witnessed inside the convention centre in Toronto that is serving as the international media hall for both meetings. Since few reporters will make it to the resort up north which graces a particularly scenic lake, someone saw fit to build a fake lake inside the press room replete with stacks of colourful canoes. To lift our spirits.

Another blunder – the fake lake has provoked particular ire, not least because the media centre is just yards from the very real Lake Ontario – was the decision to refurbish a steamboat at the resort for the benefit of the leaders. Sadly, it will not be ready to go back in the water until the end of the summer.

Making matters worse, of course, is the disruption to daily life in Toronto that began yesterday with a complete traffic freeze as Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, arrived accompanied by the required mile-long caravan of support vehicles. (Mr Cameron, in the spirit of his hair-shirt admonitions, will presumably cycle prudishly into town from Pearson International Airport on a push-bike.)

Everyone's mood will improve when the talking begins and each of the two summits concludes in triumphant unity. Though even that may not go according to plan, with reasons aplenty to fear that the consensus that was forged at the last two summits on combating the world recession has crumbled. The United States, for example, is not disguising its concern that Europe – Britain included – is risking a return to recession by forgoing policies of fiscal stimulus in favour of frantic budget deficit reduction.

Germany was already on the defensive last night. "Germany has done much more to revive the global economy than most other nations," Chancellor Angela Merkel told a radio station while her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, tacked against the US by stating that "governments should not become addicted to borrowing as a quick fix to stimulate demand".

With no wind beyond the faint whirr of air conditioning, the lake in the press room is serene and tranquil. In the real world of these two summits things were already quite choppy.

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