As pundits wind up their evaluations of the Toronto summits, there is probably a moment for reflection over which countries and leaders lost and which did not.
I’d say that Stephen Harper has to be seen as a winner. Though there is contention over whether there was any progress – given that there was no financial regulatory reform – and many have dismissed the financial consolidation targets, as meaningless, given each country’s freedom to do what they want on deficit reduction – keeping leaders in train has to be viewed as a victory.
But the gyre is tightening. This is the 4th G20 Leaders. And the Leaders need to receive and agree on ‘Basel III’ – capital and leverage ratios – if the G20 is going to satisfy the minimal requirements for a strengthened global financial system. Seoul needs to show progress. Otherwise the cynics will grow ever more vocal that this G20, as the previous G8 is long on aspiration and declaration but short on decision-making.
What about losers. Well, the two that I’d point to most directly are real surprises – Australia and Brazil. Both found themselves sending finance ministers (one current, one former) to Toronto. And in both instances the disappearance of leaders was tightly tied to domestic politics. In Australia, Kevin Rudd, the once popular Prime Minister, and a big supporter of Australia’s inclusion in this enlarged leaders club, was “dumped” by the Labour caucus. The result invisibility.
Brazil was equally invisible at the Toronto Summit. Lula called his attendance off leaving it to Mantega Guido. The reason: officially it was Lula’s call to remain in Brazil to deal with floods in the Northeast. But floods are common this time of the year in that part of the country. More pertinently, that part of the country is the heart of support for the President’s Party and the key to a win for the PT presidential candidate. But Brazil is invested with the G20 – given its sustained vociferous criticism of the G8. Now it may be that Lula didn’t wanted to face criticism of the Iran proposal – especially from President Obama. In any case a loss for Brazil and its influence in this leaders’ club.
One last thought. I’d say that the large emerging market countries – China, India and obviously Brazil - lost an opportunity to show leadership. I’ve already commented on the fact that China acted as “part-time global leader” again. But India too was barely visible. The point is that the large emerging market countries need to show leadership. They need to underpin their membership with leadership. For the time being it remains absent. The Seoul Summit grows in importance.