Punching Below its Weight

Colin Bradford of Brookings and CIGI, has set out in FP what he – possibly the editor calls – “Seven New Laws of the G-20 Era“.  Daniel Drezner in his blog post “Learning to Embrace the Policy Deadlocks” takes Colin to task – rightly I think – for trying to apply spin to the question of effectiveness for this new global governance institution.

But Colin has come back in a Rebuttal at FP called “Don’t Judge the G-20 by Its Summits“. Colin’s basic position is there is a continuous interaction of G20 officials and that the “G-20 in other words is not an event.” Colin argues that the “G-20 is a process — communicating, consulting, and even, on good days, coordinating among 20 countries, not eight.”  Well Colin makes a valid point that there is a continuing effort by officials to describe and reach agreement  and that to just look at the Leaders summits misses the decision-making structures and negotiating behaviors. But in the end the G20 will be judged on effective decision-making and the communiques at the end of the summits set out what has been agreed to by leaders. That – the commitments – plus then national implementation – is the stuff of global governance today.  It is what can be measures and evaluated.

It is rather trite to point to the divergences of this enlarged club made up of rising powers and traditional G7 powers and suggest that in fact these differences can be positive.  It is not like there weren’t differences between leaders in the G7.  In general I would not regard them as positive but the inevitable outcome of interest differences.  What needs to be accomplished then is a concerted effort to negotiate agreed outcomes despite these significant and numerous differences.

Now Colin does point out – and I and others have pointed out as well – the persistently negative international financial press – read this as the WSJ, the NYT and the FT at least. Differences are always played up; and agreements are generally characterized as inadequate.  And it is here that Dan and I differ.   Dan insists on adding his own spin – that is he characterizes the efforts of the G20 in 2010 as “a friggin disaster’.  Now talk about spin!

So the G20 has to prove its effectiveness – that is agreement on global imbalances – how to reduce volatility in the global economy -  and further collective agreement on international financial reform.  The G20 can reasonably judged on that.  But some time needs to be granted to the leaders summit.  And success needs to be acknowledged.

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