David Cameron went to Toronto last weekend promising an end to Gordon Brown style new initiatives at every G20 summit, and in a feat of post-modernist irony, chose to mark this with a new initiative of his own: he demanded that the G20 should follow up on past decisions and make sure they got implemented. Au contraire, as they say in nearby Quebec. What the Canadian G20 came up with was the most vacuous, indecisive and unfocused G20 declaration in the body’s short two year history. The Washington Post’s Harold Schneider summed up the different positions adopted by governments on their way to the meeting.
As my colleague Richard Exell remarks, virtually every world leader left able to claim victory, because the declaration demands fiscal consolidation and continued fiscal stimulus. If we could manage that, everyone really would be happy, but as they are diametrically opposed, confusion is a more likely response, if not despair that, as the International Trade Union Confederation responded, the G20 leaders fiddled while the fires of unemployment, global poverty and climate change carried on burning. Richard is right that the only bright spot is the endorsement of the G20 Labour Ministers’ meeting recommendations from April – thankfully both the French and German governments are committed to repeating that meeting. New ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:
“Jobs and better wages are at the heart of economic recovery, and last year G20 Leaders seemed to have recognized that. This year they are sending mixed and ambiguous signals that risk undermining the weak shoots of recovery.”
And it was mostly thumbs down from the NGO community too – Kel Currah has posted a good summary of responses at The Sherpa Times – although some welcomed the decision to create a G20 working group on international development, previously an issue confined to the G8, and another working group on anti-corruption measures. Many joined with the ITUC in expressing disappointment or more that financial transaction taxes and climate change financing got nowhere.