Back in early April a number of us – Colin Bradford from Brookings, Dan Drezner from foreignpolicy.com and Tufts, myself and Arthur Stein from UCLA – were ruminating over the effectiveness of the G20 Leaders Summit. I took Dan to task for criticizing Colin’s attempted paean (see “Seven New Laws of the G-20 Era” ) to the G20 in his blog post “Learning to Embrace the policy deadlocks“. As I said at the time (see “Punching Below its Weight” – positively at Colin’s G20 views and critically over Dan’s too negative perspective:
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!
Well that was then and this is now.
It would appear that neither global governance forum whether the G7 (the old guys) or the G20 (the new guys with the old guys) seem to have acquitted themselves particularly well in the recent – and continuing – global economic troubles. In the midst of the market gyrations and the growing uncertainty over the condition of European debt and US anemic growth and high unemployment – the statements by G7 Finance Ministers and the G20 were issued and then – fizzled.
Now admittedly we are reacting to finance ministers’ statements and not precisely the leaders – but then again the leaders aren’t gathering. This will have to do. The statements of the two sets of finance ministers and central bankers oddly released only hours apart on Sunday August 8th appeared to go largely unnoticed. They expressed the obvious – the commitment to coordination and the willingness to do whatever was required. Here from the G7 ministers the following which said that they:
… affirm our commitment to take all necessary measures to support financial stability and growth in a spirit of close cooperation and confidence. We are committed to addressing the tensions stemming from the current challenges on our fiscal deficits, debt and growth, and welcome the decisive actions taken in the US and Europe.
In even less detailed terms the G20 ministers repeated the call to commitment and coordination. Rhetoric but hardly believable as expressing the firm willingness to act in a coordinated fashion.
This may not be disaster but it seems a lot like a damp squib. And global governance leadership and coordination it certainly is not. There certainly needs to be a lot more doing to accompany the too bland exhortation of the finance ministers.