The G20: Waiting for Sarko
Apologies to Samuel Beckett, but what’s happening this week in Seoul, South Korea is a theatrical pause worthy of the great playwright – although the pun’s the thing! The Seoul G20 Leaders’ meeting will be the last held on a six monthly basis, as the G20 reverts to meeting every time the world travels round the sun instead. And nothing much will happen, because there is, currently, no leadership to be had among the 25 national leaders present.
In truth, the G20 only ever has (in an admittedly short history as a Leaders’ summit) thrown up one leader willing to chivvy, caress and cajole fellow world leaders in a single, purposeful direction: Britain’s Gordon Brown. But when the Seoul summit ends at the weekend, leadership of the G20 passes, for a year, and at the same time as the G8, to France.
And Nicholas Sarkozy, a little bit like Gordon Brown before him, can feel his time running out, with Presidential elections looming next autumn. So his leadership will be that of a man in a hurry. He has already indicated that he wants to make progress on a TUC favourite: the financial transactions tax. Everyone in Seoul will be preparing the ground for the next G20, rather than seeking to make any momentous decisions, unless they are simply trying to play to their domestic audiences (always a sign of weakness in a world leader).
The G20 trade union leaders – including the TUC’s General Secretary Brendan Barber – will be in Seoul too, but under no illusions. They will be there, in another theatrical analogy, like Banquo’s ghost, spoiling the party by pointing a finger at the world leaders and asking “what about the jobless?” as emphasised in the global unions’ statement.