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

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

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - £60,000

£55000 - £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone