G20 London 2009


From G20 to G2?
April 2, 2009, 7:36 am
Filed under: Comment | Tags: , , , , , ,

Hu-Obama

Gregory Chin  CIGI Senior Fellow
From the London Summit Media Centre

As the global financial crisis has grown into an economic crisis, there is a sense that this time in London, there is more at stake than diplomatic poker. At one level, people are tried of summits. Yet at another, people get it that leaders need to go solve the brewing crisis at the global level.

The financial crisis has turned into one of confidence, beyond financial markets. Commodity prices have fallen. It is affecting peoples’ jobs and livelihood, spreading across the globe. In Africa, fragile states that have depended on exports in niche sectors have seen their trade dry-up. It has become a crisis of real life, fuelling insecurity and uncertainty for households. This explains the surge in expectations for the G20 London. This is one of the differences between the G20 Washington last November and London this time.

In the lead up to London, the leaders themselves seem more engaged – more personally involved. World leaders have become their own sherpas, driving the agenda for the meetings. The host, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has expended tremendous personal energy and political capital to set the tone and provide leadership for this summit. There is recognition among world leaders that they need to restore confidence and demonstrate there is “someone in charge out there”. The top advisors to the host have called for concrete and realistic goals; a focus on first priorities; and objectives that give a sense of “the beginning of the end” of the global crisis. This has required fighting off the temptation to expand the agenda to include, for example, climate change. The focus has been on economic problem solving. In this regard, G20 London is turning out to be different from recent G8 Summits.

At the same time, the host government has encouraged broader participation at this summit beyond the G20, based on the reasoning that the world is facing truly global problems, and that fixing the global system will require a broader international effort than “the 20”. While such an approach offers legitimacy gains, it also accentuates existing collective action challenges.

The G20 London Summit is expected to bring stronger domestic pledges on ODA commitments to developing countries, as well as increased commitments to the international financial institutions. London is expected to result in a stronger package of regulations, including principles for strengthening national banking and financial regulations, and more robust peer pressure mechanisms via the Financial Stability Forum, Basel, and the International Monetary Fund. However, the word is that there will not be a new global stimulus package. Instead there will be a commitment to monitor closely, and add at the later date if more is needed, or step on the brake to prevent inflation. While the above would represent an advance on the Washington Summit last November, it will likely not be enough.

Here we should note that we are seeing the rise of a new informal “G2” – between the United States and China. And this is the crux of the challenge for the G20. If an “expanded G20” cannot deliver, it will feed Great Power withdrawal into the bilateral track to deal with matters of highest strategic importance. This could mean confining the multilateral track to implementing the decisions made by the Big 2. The result would be a more varied architecture, which in itself, is not a negative outcome. But the reality of an informal G2 should serve as a warning to those who are playing a soft power hand. That expanding the G20 could impair the role of “the 20” in setting the agenda – not to mention its effectiveness.

Disclaimer: This blog is solely intended to spur discussion, while the opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or their respective Boards of Directors.

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[…] his analysis, CIGI Senior Fellow Gregory Chin suggests that failure or frustration in a divergent G20 process may feed a “Great Power […]

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