Sean O'Grady: Forget the protesters: someone separate the leaders

Share
Related Topics

On the basis of the text of the G20 summit communiqué, leaked comprehensively yesterday, it seems pretty clear that the event will be a flop. But could Thursday's G20 Summit do more harm than good?

Yes. The text indicates that little concrete will be agreed beyond extra resources for the IMF – worthy, but it could be achieved without pulling 20 exceptionally busy leaders together for a group photo.

President Obama, Gordon Brown, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and disparate others – from Argentina to Indonesia via Saudi Arabia – are set to sign up to a communiqué that commits them to "the measures necessary". Sadly that "rough consensus", as Mr Obama describes it, includes doing nothing, a policy that will continue to be followed by the Germans, French, Italians, even the Chileans – and the British, too, embarrassingly for Mr Brown, if the Bank of England governor really has vetoed another big fiscal boost in the 22 April Budget.

This Thursday's summit will, unhelpfully, highlight discord. The stock markets won't crash – most long ago wrote off the G20 as a media circus, their disappointment already "priced in". But something far worse than the status quo may emerge.

Why? Because, just as the Soviet Union proved that you cannot have socialism in one country, so will the summit reveal how you cannot have reflation in one country. Look at it from the point of view of the US. Put bluntly, why should America agree to buy new German cars and French wine if Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy won't agree buy American goods in return? The cry will go up in the most protectionist Congress in 60 years – as it has already, but it will become shriller – that taxpayers' dollars should be used to "Buy American". Hey presto, the G20 summit helps roll the world economic machine backwards towards "beggar my neighbour" polices.

Ah, but doesn't the summit communiqué say that the G20 "reaffirm the commitment made in Washington not to raise new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services"? Sure. But then the World Bank says that since the November G20 summit, 17 out of the 20 nations have implemented protectionist measures. This summit may "name and shame" the miscreants into better behaviour, but it seems unlikely.

The summit could turn ugly. The Americans and Japanese may wonder aloud why they run risks with their balance of payments, the dollar and yen, and future inflation. Interviews with Merkel and Sarkozy will draw attention to their indifference to such concerns. The Brazilians may declare that the failure of the summit is down to white men with blue eyes. The Chinese could, damagingly, talk about their worries about the dollar. The Saudis might join in. The South Koreans will scream about trade barriers. The Russians will sulk. A global crisis will bring forth not global solutions but the biggest global custard pie fight since Mack Sennett. Forget those rioting protesters outside.

Mr Brown may well wonder why he bothered.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions