Who, What, Where? Above all: Why?


I've just done something I bet no-one else in Hong Kong has done.

And if they read this column and follow my advice they won't be doing it any time soon.

I've read the final declaration issued by the G20 leaders at the end of their recent meeting in Los Cabos.

And a bigger load of rubbish you couldn’t find in one of Hong Kong’s fast-filling landfills. Bland? Meaningless? Mind-numbing? This document had it all – in spades.

The declaration was almost a parody of itself. Economic growth is a good thing, as is helping the poor. The excellent efforts of the European Union to save the Euro were doing fine and needed to continue. (Have none of them read the newspapers?) Despite the hardships, multilateralism was important and needed to be safeguarded. Really? In the real word the Doha Round has collapsed and nations are falling over themselves to sign bilateral trade deals which are the very antithesis of multilateralism.

But even worse was the document attached to it with the grand title "Los Cabos Growth and Jobs Action Plan". Now I think we can all agree that this is an excellent title. The only trouble is the paper does nothing to promote growth, it creates no jobs, there is no action and only a bureaucrat nursed at Sir Humphrey’s own breast could call it a plan.

Who exactly are the G20? Well in 1975 when they first started they were called the G6 and it was a meeting of the finance ministers of six major industrialised countries (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA). The next year Canada was allowed to join and the organisation became – wait for it – the G7. They all practised more or less free trade and ran capitalist economies.

In 1997, the rules were bent, presumably for political reasons, to allow Russia to join. (Yep, G8 – not good at originality are they?)

But in recent times almost all the governments concerned ran out of money. So they invited lots more countries to join, no doubt hoping they would bring their cheque books with them. Hence the G20.

There have been some famous and significant government meetings over the years: the famous trio of gatherings during World War Two at Potsdam, Tehran and Yalta which resulted in victory for the Allies. The founding conference of the United Nations in 1945 held in San Francisco.

In more recent times there have been important gatherings in Rio de Janeiro addressing the Environment and Development (1992) followed up by the Earth Summit in the same city this year.

Copenhagen in 1999 hosted an important conference on Climate Change.

These later ones maybe didn’t solve the problems they were targeting, but at least they were taking aim at important issues and trying to hammer out solutions.

But this latest meeting of the G20 in Los Cabos (that's a parcel of desert in Mexico by the way that the local government is hoping to turn into a high class tourist resort) was just a talkfest. And the declaration – almost certainly not read by a single leader – was a cloak to explain why so many of them had spent their taxpayers money on a holiday in the sun.

Nice try, but I’m not sure who they think they are fooling.


 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk