The clock continues to tick. The G20 leaders are scheduled to meet November 11-12 in Seoul. The commitments - announced at Washington, London, Pittsburgh and Toronto - need to be concluded and implemented. Time is running short to show that the G20 is more than aspirational.
The Governor of the Bank of Canada - and something of a darling in international financial circles – Mark Carney – raised concern in a recent speech that it was time now for the G20 to achieve reforms:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Wednesday (September 8th) for the second time as Secretary of State to the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington. The Department and the Administration promoted this lengthy speech as a kind of report card on the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. It was positive and upbeat generally though it dwelt on the dangers facing the international system from Iran’s presumptive efforts to go nuclear.
Just before the weekend the President of France Nicholas Sarkozy spoke to the 18th Ambassadors’ Conference at the Elysée Palace in Paris. Now that is pomp, I suspect. The speech was a kind of - here is where we are roundup – with a look toward France’s dual Gx leadership role – president of the G8 – commencing in January and host of the G20 Leaders Summit following the Seoul Summit in November. If there was an underlying theme it was – reform. Such reform included European institutions including the EU and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and also NATO.
With a large delegation – 400 business executives and 11 cabinet ministers – South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma is visiting China. Just yesterday, (August 24th) South Africa signed some 10 deals – though the value of these agreements was not revealed. The deals were all in the resources and energy sectors and appeared to further augment the resource-based focus of China’s trade and investment with South Africa. Last year China imported some $6.57 billion of goods almost entirely made up of natural resources (see Jamil Anderlini, “Pretoria defends China’s African policy,” FT.com, (August, 24, 2010).
I was preparing over the vacation a piece assessing the evolution of the global architecture as we move from the Toronto summits to Seoul. For a variety of reasons – more about this at a later date – I titled the piece – ‘Stuck in Transition’. It has appeared for some time now that the ‘new boy on the bloc’ – the G20 – seemed to be struggling to make the transition from a crisis committee to a more permanent steering committee for the global economy at least.
I had the pleasure from Monday through Wednesday to spend a goodly number of hours with colleagues from China, Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars especially a number from the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. The day and half day conference at the magnificent Wilson Center was identified as: “The Long Term Future of US-Chinese Relations: Economic, Political, and Historical Aspects.”
All right – so the Obama Administration no longer calls it the ‘War on Terror’ (For a very good analysis see Steve Miller’s chapter on the ‘War on Terror’ in Andy Cooper’s and my own, “Rising States; Rising Institutions…”). But the focus on fighting Muslim extremists is in Afghanistan and Pakistan – and it’s not going well. The WikiLeaks of secret war documents describes a grim and “kabuki-like” war. Pakistan receives US aid and aids the Taliban; NATO supports the current Afghan government; yet disdains it for its corruption and unpopularity.
My attention was caught by a Globe and Mail article (one of, if not the, leading Canadian newspapers) reporting on China’s top-ranked philanthropists – reported by the Hurun Report (Mark MacKinnon. “China’s top philanthropist shows super-rich how it’s done: He gives it all away,” The Globe and Mail (Saturday July 24, 2010)). The story is principally about Yu Pengnian who in establishing his foundation (Yu Pengnian Foundation) and delivering about $500 million (actually a total now of $1.3 billion) has essentially given away his entire fortune.
The news from Europe has improved. Now “improved” is a very relative term. Last week Portugal’s debt was downgraded – and by two notches. To begin this week Moody’s has also downgraded Ireland’s debt - though only by one notch. Yet notwithstanding these downgrades Europe seems to have taken these changes in stride – in part reflecting the recent well-subscribed bond auctions for sovereign debt from Portugal and Italy, the freeze on wages fin Greece and larger than expected growth in Germany (see, Graham Bowley, “After Tumult, Debt Worries Ease in Europe,” NYT, (July 18, 2010)).