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Friday, April 03, 2009

G20 finesse

An interesting feature in today's Guardian showcased at the reaction of correspondents around Europe to the world leaders at the G20.

Fabio Cavalera from Corriere della Sera made a good point that, "Now we will have to check if the political agreements made here will be transformed into legal agreements. The summit also showed the end of the era. Emerging countries like China, India and Brazil are much more important than old countries like France and Italy."

Marc Roche for Le Monde wrote, "It was a particular success for the French and German approach to the crisis. They put on the agenda the fact that you can't just print money to fund your budgetary hole like the British and Americans are doing...The summit has highlighted the fractures between the Anglo-Saxon leaders and the continental leaders."

While there has been a great deal reported on divisions between EU leaders on the merits of financial regulation vs fiscal stimulus, there is now more media coverage pointing to the emergence of a G2 - highlighting that, in the context of the G20, the US and China are the two countries that really matter in reaching global agreement on issues - they are an "elite partnership".

This isn't how Eduardo Suarez at El Mundo sees things, however. He said: "It was funny to see all the journalists leave his [Brown's] press conference before it was over to get to Sarkozy's. I think the summit has shown Sarkozy and Obama are the important leaders here."

Not sure about that. The agreement finally reached by the G20 on banking secrecy and tax havens was reportedly that they would "take note" of the OECD's list of rogue offshore tax havens, rather than "endorse" the list, as Sarko wanted.

Sarko seemed to be targeting Hong Kong and Macau, outside the transparency framework set up by the OECD, of which China is not a member.

You might also remember last year's diplomatique faux pas when Sarkozy spectacularly soured relations with China over his decision to meet with the Dalai Lama, causing China to postpone its summit with the EU, for the first time in the history of such meetings.

Perhaps it was a combination of these two slights, but the Chinese actually refused to turn up to a meeting with the French until a joint statement was issued, moderating France's position on Tibet and reaffirming its commitment to the "One-China" policy. Even then, it took the intervention of Barack Obama to seal a deal on tax havens, requiring the diplomatic finesse that seemed to otherwise elude President Sarkozy.

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