Ideas for the G-20 meetings in Cannes today
A police officer conducts a security sweep in a conference room where G-20 heads of state will gather / AP
Leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) meet on the French Riviera this week, but their stay on the Cote d'Azur will be anything but relaxed. The world economy is in deep trouble again, plagued by sovereign debt crises in Europe and the United States, persistent global imbalances and currency misalignments, low growth and stubborn unemployment in developed countries, and inflationary pressures in emerging economies. A year ago at Seoul, the G20 seemed finally poised to transition from an emergency crisis committee to a global economic steering group. The Cannes summit finds the G20 once again at the heart of the maelstrom, in full crisis-management mode.
The narrowed Cannes agenda reflects this reality. When France assumed the G20's rotating presidency a year ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a sweeping summit agenda. Paris' ambitions included an overhaul of the international monetary system and comprehensive "global governance reform"--including enlargement of the UN Security Council.
But ambition has yielded to sobriety. The Cannes action plan will focus on two main goals: bolstering the recent eurozone agreement, to ensure that the continental crisis does not spread worldwide; and restoring momentum behind global growth.
The Cannes summit is the sixth since November 2008, when George W. Bush first convened a meeting of G20 leaders in the wake of the global credit crisis. The G20's record since then has been checkered. Its zenith was the London Summit of April 2009, which averted a 1930s-style depression by injecting $5 trillion (AFP) into the global economy, including a trillion dollars in new IMF resources. But subsequent summits in Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Seoul saw this diverse coalition of mature and emerging economies begin to fray.
With the world economy once more in crisis, the conditions may be ripe for greater G20 solidarity. But to be considered a success, the summit must achieve six objectives:
As with all G20 (and G8) summits, the final communiqué in Cannes will touch on a variety of other worthy issues--from promoting food security to adopting anti-corruption measures. But its success or failure will be judged by whether the assembled leaders take the bold steps needed to contain financial risks, revive global growth, and adapt old institutions to new realities.