These G8 and G20 Summits must compete against the BP blowout, World Cup soccer and the first anniversary of Michael Jackson's death.
Lumping the demise of the King of Pop in with major world events may seem inappropriate but last year's burgeoning revolution in Iran was knocked off front pages, and lost steam, as a result of the Jackson publicity.
This year, soccer rivals the Summits for air time and mind share and is winning the ratings. That's because sports offers up clear-cut outcomes, winners and losers, unlike global confabs.
Exception to this reality was in December 2008 and spring 2009 when G20 commitments to backstop the world's banks and the world's developing nations were clear-cut decisions which saved the world's economy.
This time, the assemblage is trying to mop up a mess, not photogenic like BP's, and to devise arcane policies about as gripping as a scoreless soccer game.
Besides, summiteers do their best work during the lead-up to the assemblages. In fact, the pre-meeting stunts and postures represent the most meaningful outcomes so far this round:
- The American Congress stayed up until the eleventh hour -- 5.23 AM on June 23 -- to ink important financial reforms that will impose capital restrictions on banks, restraints on private equity and hedge funds and curb bank risk-taking. These are expected to receive approval and President Obama's signature and represent the first concrete template worldwide for reform of financial institutions.
- On June 21, China pre-emptively announced it would de-peg its Yuan, thus removing it from the summits' agenda which would have been hijacked by the Americans over Chinese currency manipulation. Some say it was too little too late, but at least it took the most contentious economic issue off the table. It also gave Beijing some moral high ground and influence among the G20 which shifts geo-economics.
- Russia and the U.S. thawed the Cold War and reconstituted their relationship from military to mercantile on the summit's eve. On Thursday, its two Presidents had a burger together in a DC suburb and jointly announced that a major Russian oil company would buy 50 Boeing airplanes for US4-billion, creating 44,000 American jobs.
- Likewise, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went from preachy moralism toward Beijing to mercantilism. He boycotted the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 in protest against Chinese behavior, but on June 23, the day before his double-summit, met and escorted China's leader on a guided tour of Parliament.
- IMF managing director Dominic Strauss-Kahn is touted as a political replacement for France's Nicolas Sarkozy and staked his ground in opposition to austerity measures favored in the EU. "What's at stake then in Toronto -- a difference between good [stimulus] policy and bad [austerity] policy -- is 60 million jobs," he told newspapers recently.
All that's left now, will be for the leaders to pose, with spouses, for photographs and agree to disagree. As for myself, I'll watch the soccer.
Diane Francis blogs at Financial Post
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