G20 St. Petersburg Rapid Response

About the series

CIGI Experts share commentary and analysis in response to the G20 Leaders' Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia held September 5-6, 2013. For more commentary and analysis from the summit, visit CIGI's G20 Working Group activity. 

In the Series

While media attention was focussed on Syria, the G20 issued its most detailed communiqué in its five-year history. It includes commitments to work together on the following wide range of issues: strong, sustainable economic growth; unemployment and underemployment, particularly among young people; long-term financing for investment; international trade; cross-border tax evasion and avoidance; financial reforms and reform of financial institutions; development; corruption; energy and climate change; and fiscal sustainability. As deliverables, it contains the St. Petersburg Action Plan, designed to boost economic activity and create jobs through strong, sustainable and balanced growth; the St. Petersburg Development Outlook, intended to improve food security, financial inclusion, infrastructure, development and domestic resource mobilization; and the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan, focussed on combatting domestic and foreign bribery, tackling corruption in high-risk sectors, and strengthening international cooperation and transparency in the fight against corruption.
Two days after the official communiqué was released, the St. Petersburg G20 Summit has virtually disappeared from media commentary. It is quickly becoming the most forgettable of the eight G20 summits held to date. If this result was due to a lack of important issues facing the global economy, this may be understandable. Sadly, this is not the case. The reality is that the G20 may be becoming forgettable as a forum to provide the global economic leadership that it was created to achieve.
The outcome of the St. Petersburg G20 Summit is disappointing but not surprising. Even the logo chosen by the Russian hosts seemed, bizarrely, to evoke a collapsing pile of bricks, as well as a fissure within the G20, with the letter “G” as well as the number “2” being broken into fragments.
Whether Harold Macmillan, UK prime minister in the early 1960s, actually uttered this expression or not, is less important than the fact that what is supposed to be primarily an economic summit ended up being overtaken by the ongoing events in Syria. This is not surprising of course. Yet, underlying economic conditions around the world, as the G20 declaration admits, continue to weigh on central banks and finance ministries. The so-called St. Petersburg Action Plan sounds like a global version of the Canadian government’s “Action Plan,” still apparently alive andwell, but essentially on autopilot since the end of the global financial crisis.