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

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

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

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot