The G20 are meeting in Washington today, called together by President Bush to address the global economic crisis. (Already your expectations are pretty low, aren’t they?) This meeting is hailed by some as a “new Bretton Woods” or “Bretton Woods II,” referring to the global meeting held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944 to craft a new world economic order, the one that just collapsed this fall.
But instead of coming together in a spirit of cooperation, each country seems to be taking more of an “every man for himself” approach in which each tries to assert its influence over the others. The Europeans want more regulation. The U.S. wants less. The U.S. blames China for manipulating their currency. Russia and China want a dominant role in running the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.
Thankfully, nothing will come of this meeting, although it may be a dress rehearsal for a more substantive discussion once Obama takes office. By that time, the world will be in a deep recession, perhaps on its way to a global depression as the root cause, the enormous global trade imbalances, make matters worse with each passing month. By the time the real meeting rolls around, they’ll need police in the room to maintain order. Instead of establishing a new new-world-order, it may be just as likely that the meeting ends with the stage set for World War III.
I hope that’s not the outcome. The best we can hope for is that each member leaves with an understanding that it is each country’s right to manage trade and its economy in its own best interest, and that none has a right to another’s market or resources. A world of peaceful coexistence, not the “globalization” model of competitive predation – that’s what we need.