Simon Maxwell

G-20 - CIGI: Ontario

I was at the Centre for International Governance Innovation for two days, for a conference on ‘Issues for 2010 Summits’. The main focus was on the G-20 and the main substantive discussion on the Financial Stability Board and the Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth (from last year’s Pittsburgh G20).  See here.

CIGI has a particular attachment to the G20, of course a Canadian invention, originally for Finance Ministers and now for leaders. Paul Martin was the original inspiration, when he was Finance Minister of Canada, and was at the meeting. There was quite a lot of discussion about legitimacy and representativeness, but, perhaps not surprisingly, enthusiasm for this particular contribution to what was described as ‘messy multilateralism’. CIGI has been supporting the G20 process around the world – for example, they ran a seminar in London last year, which I went to, and are doing work in Korea as well as Canada. This is track 1.5 diplomacy, apparently.

Canada is hosting the G20, along with the G8, from 25-27 June. Jim Flaherty, the current Finance Minister, was there for part of the time, along with many officials from the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and other Sherpa bolt-holes. The Koreans, who hold the Presidency of the G20 and will host another summit on 11-12 November in Seoul, were represented in force. There were some other sherpas there, including from Mexico and the UK (Harold Freeman). Amar Bhattacharya from the G24, Avinash Persaud, Cyrus Rustomjee from the CommSec. Academics from Brookings, Chatham House, Warwick etc . . . I was there to talk about think-tanks, along with Diane Stone.

I characterised the discussion as having a bit of a Washington Consensus tone to it. I found myself invoking Stiglitz, Soros (cf the Cambridge conference the other day), and the proposals for a UN Economic Security Council to bring these discussions into the UN.

On financial stability, the ‘project’ is to build the Financial Stability Board as the fourth pillar of the global economic management system, alongside the IMF, the WBWorld Bank and the WTO. Lots of discussion about the nature of risk, problems of herding behaviour, best practice in regulation and the membership, accountability, compliance, and peer review procedures of the FSB. I introduced the aid governance framework from the paper Mikaela, Deborah and I are writing with Owen Barder (efficiency, effectiveness,, legitimacy, accountability and adaptability) and people seemed to find that helpful.

On the growth framework, the focus was very much on global aggregate demand and managing global imbalances. Amar Bhattacharya spoke about the impact of slow growth in Europe.

It was notable that the Canadians had these two items at the top of the agenda for the G20, and that neither had much of a development focus. This was a Central Bankers’ and Finance Ministers’ agenda. A couple of us (including the Mexican Sherpa, Lourdes Aranda) made pleas for more development, and John Whalley (now at CIGI) made a strong pitch for more on climate. I went back to the Pittsburgh Communique, to make the point that the two big items were only 2 of 7 major headings. The others were: reforming global architecture; the food, fuel and financial crises; fuel subsidies; greener and more sustainable growth; and avoiding protectionism. All these needed to be on the agenda. Even if they weren’t, there was one sentence in para 4 of the Framework section of the communiqué about the need to raise living standards in developing countries.

On summits in general, the discussion was mostly about the relation between the G8Group of Eight and the G20 and what should be on which agenda. General view that both were needed and that development had to be on both.

The think-tanks session was mostly about whether CIGI should lead a network of think-tanks on G20 issues. A key issue is whether a network should be about process (how to manage summits) or content. I think there is a job to be done on the former, with lots of emphasis on theory of collective action and negotiating strategies, plus supporting processes, as they are already doing. CIGI has people who could do this. The substantive network is much more ambitious, given the range of G20 topics (incl finance, trade, migration etc . . .).

Finally, a joke by Gordon Brown joke, as told to Paul Martin. Every new Finance Minister receives three letters on appointment, to be opened only at times of crisis. The first says ‘blame your predecessor’. The second says ‘blame the statistics’. The third says ‘start writing three letters for your successor’.

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