Web Chat: Previewing the G-20 Summit

This week, President Obama travels to Toronto for the G-20 Summit where world leaders are expected to focus on recovery from the global financial crisis, specifically restoring financial stability, global financial regulation and reform of international financial institutions.

On Wednesday, June 23, Colin Bradford previewed the G-20 Summit in a live web chat moderated by David Mark, senior editor at POLITICO.

The transcript of this chat follows.

12:29 David Mark: As the American economy seems to improve in fits and starts President Obama on Friday travels to Toronto for the G-20 Summit, where world leaders will focus on fostering a global recovery from the financial crisis. Welcome to the chat.

12:30 [Comment From Zengxin Li: ] Do you see the G-20 summit eventually taking on the responsibilities of climate change, security and other global issues and replacing G8 or G7, or is the G-20 merely a crisis call which will diminish after the crisis ends?

12:30 Colin Bradford: Short answer is “yes”.

12:31 Colin Bradford: The global challenges today are urgent and multiple. There is no such thing as the world being out of crises in the short term.

12:34 Colin Bradford: These global challenges need a focal point for global leadership and strategic guidance. The G-20 seems to be showing itself capable of generating significant coordinated responses to the financial crisis which set the stage for taking on other issues, like financing climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, development, energy security, water, health, the oceans, and so on.

12:35 Colin Bradford: It would be appalling for the G-20 leaders or the world as a whole to think that if and as the G-20 steers our way out of the current economic crisis that somehow its job is done, and it can close up shop.

12:36 [Comment From Zengxin Li: ] How has China’s exchange rate announcement changed the atmosphere of the summit? By doing this, what does China want in return, and what can other countries offer?

12:37 Colin Bradford: What this announcement show is the dynamics of G-20 summitry at work.

12:39 Colin Bradford: Rather than have the Chinese exchange rate rivet attention of leaders at the G-20 Toronto Summit, the Chinese acted ahead of it to take the issue off the table and have it be one of many factors not THE factor.

Smart move; but also a good example of how holding leaders level summits can be forcing events, moving the global agenda forward not just AT summit but in the run-up to them.

Excellent. Very healthy and positive sign.

12:40 [Comment From Lane: ] Do you think that North Korea’s recent bouts of aggression will be addressed?

12:42 Colin Bradford: I think the tensions on the Korean peninsula will be addressed by leaders in the G8 Summit in Huntsville on Friday, more informally than in the communique, and that this will be corridor talk among leaders and senior officials from the broader G-20 membership in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday. I would not expect communique language on this issue from either summit.

12:42 [Comment From Mona Pinchis: ] Mr. Bradford, do you believe that it will be necessary than to retain both a G8 and G-20?

12:43 Colin Bradford: For the time being , “yes”, I think both will continue.

12:44 Colin Bradford: But the G-20 has the momentum, the lead on the financial crisis, with linkages through economics to most of the other major global challenges. So, the trend is clear; the G-20 is ascendent and the G8 is moving to a more subordinate role.

12:47 Colin Bradford: But, Canada, Japan, the U.S. and probably Italy, at the least, want to see the G8 continue. It will be up to them to shape an agenda which is suitable for what is in the end a “transatlantic ” grouping plus Japan, of advanced industrial countries which have limited reach on the major issues, if they try to act in isolation.

On the North Korea threats, for example, China must be involved. It is hard to imagine a serious global problem that the G8 by itself can deal with alone.

12:49 [Comment From Mary: ] I haven’t heard anything lately about the special issues of the developing world. Is that just off of the world leaders’ radar screen for now?

12:49 Colin Bradford: No; the development issue is not off the radar screen.

12:51 Colin Bradford: To the contrary, fortunately. Good you asked, because it is important.

Korea is chairing the G-20 for 2010. The next G-20 Summit will be in Seoul on November 11-12.

The Korean leadership has for several months now been floating the idea of putting developing countries on the G-20 agenda.

12:52 Colin Bradford: There was resistance to the whole idea at first. Gradually, this turned around and there is enough support among enough of the G-20 member countries, so that the Koreans have put it on the agenda for Seoul in November.

12:54 Colin Bradford: The question now is what content a G2-0 role in development would have. There are various versions and possibilities, including some specific Korean ideas.

But what is clear is that a G-20 role will be different from the G8 role in development which became excessively aid-centric.

12:54 [Comment From Sisi Pan: ] Mr. Bradford, regarding the Millennium Development Goals, have you any concerns that this G-20 ascendency will allow for less accountability on the part of the G8 and their previous commitments? Moreover, to what extent will G-20 ascendency affect international development and traditional donor-partner relationships?

12:56 Colin Bradford: Good question. The Canadians are putting a lot of attention in the G-20 Toronto Summit on “accountability” or “implementation of previous G-20 commitments”.

Presumably, they will apply the same metric to the G8 summits , especially on the Gleneagle commitments and so on.

12:58 Colin Bradford: I think the MDGs are alive and well, I am happy to say.

There are still five years to go before the 2015 deadline for them. And they seem to be center stage in the donor community, among civil society globally, in the United Nations, and most importantly in many developing countries.

And there is thought already being generated about the sequel to the MDGs after 2015.

1:00 Colin Bradford: I think what you may see in Korea in November is a greater focus on the economic growth dimensions of development.

But this approach will be laid out as a complement to, not a substitute for, the MDGs.

So it will provide an emphasis on the economic growth underpinnings for the social and environmental goals in the MDGs.

Korea chairs the G2-0 now and has the secretary general of the UN position, so Korea is uniquely able to pull these two streams together.

1:01 [Comment From Mike: ] Is there any significance to the summit being held in Canada?

1:03 Colin Bradford: Yes; for sure.

Canada is the G-20 country, par excellence. Paul Martin, former finance minister and then later prime minister of Canada was the crucial architect of the formation of the G-20 at finance minister level, as an excellent in depth article in the Toronto Globe and Mail revealed this week. He chaired the first three years of the G-20 finance ministers meetings in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

1:04 Colin Bradford: Later, as prime minister, Paul Martin proposed that the G-20 countries move to leaders level summits.

Finally, that has happened, thanks, unfortunately, to the financial crisis.

So, Canada has an opportunity to take ownership of this new summit grouping.

1:08 Colin Bradford: But like several other G8 countries, as indicated above, prime minister Harper is one the the G8 leaders that wants to see the G8 continue. Some think he prefers it, because it smaller and more “like-minded.”

But smaller and “like-minded” are not assets that compare with larger and more diverse which makes the G-20 massively more powerful than the G8.

So, Canada embodies the ambivalence of many leaders about the G8/7-G20 tradeoff and the ambivalence of many citizens in advanced countries who now face a transformed world order in which the non-Western world is on the scene, involved, and contributing to global approaches in significant ways which make their inclusion imperative.

1:09 [Comment From Amy Lebichuck: ] If the G8 concept is becoming outdated, will the G-20 not become quickly outdated as well? If inclusion is an objective, will the end result be another United Nations General Assembly?

1:09 Colin Bradford: Short answer here is…”no” !

1:11 Colin Bradford: You have hit the nail on the head.

No matter that the G-20 embodies 70 per cent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the world’s economy, it is still seen as not inclusive enough by those 173 countries that are not in the G20.

1:12 Colin Bradford: If the G8 with 10% of the world’s population was the embodiment of “the West against the Rest,” the G-20 could be construed to be “the Rich and powerful against the Rest.”

1:13 Colin Bradford: But there is a huge leap forward between the G8 and the G-20 in representativeness legitimacy, just because of the leap from 10% to 70% of the world’s population.

1:17 Colin Bradford: Fortunately, there is a qualitative difference as well.

Under Korean leadership , there is a move to generate innovations in G-20 Summit processes, modalities and procedures so that countries outside the G-20 will have input into the G-20 preparations, summits and follow up, through time, even if they do not have a seat at the table for the summit meetings themselves, which are only the pinnacle moment of the process.

The G-20 process through time is what is important. The G-20 will be more porous than the G8; if you want to influence it , you can. Civil society, business and NGO leaders will be involved. There is not just “outreach” which implies telling others what is going on, there is will be “inreach” or input into the G-20 process itself.

1:20 Colin Bradford: We all learned from Copenhagen in December that involving everyone has the downside of reducing effectiveness to near zero.

So, the G-20 summit size of 20 leaders is a good number to stick to; bigger than 8; smaller than 193.

The question is not the number of seats at the G-20 table but how responsive those who sit in them are to the different interests, ideas and perspectives of those who are not at the table.

There is serious progress on this front.

1:20 [Comment From Adam Kuerbitz: ] How do you think the G-20 will work to reform global financial regulations to prevent future crises? What kind of measures will be proposed?

1:22 Colin Bradford: This will be a major issue in Toronto this weekend. The leaders will review and report on progress over the last nine months, since Pittsburgh, in G20 countries, by parliaments and through cooperative efforts at the Financial Stability Board in Basle and the IMF to push forward oversight, supervision and regulatory reform of financial markets and institutions.

1:24 Colin Bradford: A lot has been done in each of these venues over the last nine months.

The challenge for leaders is multiple. First, they have to be vigilant in searching out remaining weaknesses in national efforts. There will be some. This work is not over, not by a long shot.

1:26 Colin Bradford: Second, they will have to figure out how to convey to the public what is going on here, and that is not made easy by the variety of fronts on which there has been action or on which action is underway.

Third, countries are different. Some countries, like Canada, have fairly solid regulatory frameworks and institutions in place. They have relatively few investment banks, reducing systemic risk. They have higher capital requirements than many. So their opposition to the bank tax or bank levy is due to the fact that they don’t have the same level of risk as the U.S. for example.

1:29 Colin Bradford: So, leaders will have to report on progress collectively and eclectically that nonetheless reflects the considerable progress that has been made in laying the foundations for much greater collaboration, information sharing, and vigilance than before the crisis, and much greater movement toward institutional innovations and reform which will strengthen the ability of governments to assert public responsibility for the public interest in financial stability, than was there before the crisis.

1:30 David Mark: That’s about all the time we have for today. Thanks everyone for your great questions.

1:31 Colin Bradford: Thanks to everyone for great questions. I would have liked to have addressed more of your questions, since there are so many good ones. Will try to increase my typing speed for the next round. Thank you.