IN ANY global gathering, the American president is usually seen, at a minimum, as primus inter pares: the one who can make or break the final bargain and select his favoured interlocutors. So in Copenhagen last December, as negotiations for a new climate-change treaty were entering their final hours, a hastily convened meeting between Barack Obama and China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, looked as if it would be the critical moment when a deal might be struck. But when the president turned up, he found not only Mr Wen but the heads of government of Brazil, South Africa and India....

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