G-20 leaders gathering in Seoul this week face a full plate of issues, most prominently the effort to stave off beggar-thy-neighbors currency devaluations. This week on the Global Prosperity Wonkcast, we've distilled highlights from a private briefing I organized where five CGD experts shared their views on key issues facing the G-20, and their implications for poor people not represented at the table. Snippets below—listen to the full 30-minute Wonkcast for the rest of the story or scroll to the bottom of this page for full event video. If you'd like a bit of historical background on the G-20 and how it came into its current role, listen to my introductory remarks (they're about 6 minutes long) that give some context for the rest of the discussion.
Korea's Legacy: A G-20 That Addresses the Long-Term
Nancy Birdsall highlights Korea’s approach to global cooperation and economic growth, particularly pushing for a multi-year action plan for development. The Summit’s development agenda includes lessons that draw upon Korea’s successful emergence as a prosperous, high-tech democracy. (You can read my own views on the emerging ‘Seoul Consensus’ here.)
"Let us hope that Seoul is remembered for the switch from crisis-driven to long-term-growth-driven. That indeed could save the G-20 from its own risk-- that it no longer matters when this ongoing crisis...is finally gone." (presentation audio)
The Currency Wars: It's Not Just China That's To Blame
Liliana Rojas–Suarez explains the debilitating effects on low-income countries of an undervalued Chinese currency and record-low interest rates and massive liquidity infusions in the United States (which also depress the value of the U.S. currency). While she hails efforts to make the IMF more representative and to give it a larger role in setting limits on current account surpluses and deficits, she shared two concerns with the proposals.
"First, I truly hope the G-20 will not come with a proposal on current account limits that will only affect China... Second, what is the contribution of the United States in solving the currency wars problem? The [October G-20 finance] ministers' statement was quite vague about the role of reserve currency countries such as the United States. In my view a middle ground is still missing in the resolution of the currency wars, and we can only hope that further deliberations will bring positive results during the forthcoming Seoul meetings." (presentation audio)
A Gut Check for G20 Leaders on Trade Access for the Poor
Kimberly Ann Elliott is optimistic that, while the Doha trade round will likely remain on life support, real action could be forthcoming on full market access for the world's poorest countries. She says the key will be whether a commitment to full product coverage stays in the summit's communiqué.
"The issue of full coverage or 100% coverage is critical, because even a very small number of product exclusions... really guts the proposal. [Exclusions] will all be agriculture and clothing, and that's what LDCs basically export... What comes out of Seoul next week on this Duty Free Quota Free market access issue will tell us a lot about whether the G-20 leaders-- and particularly President Obama-- really believe their rhetoric about development being about more than just aid." (presentation audio)
No Big News on Anti-Corruption in Seoul, But Exciting Developments On the Way
Ted Moran discusses the results of a G-20 working group on anti-corruption. He says that while the issue won't be featured prominently in the Seoul agenda, it’s valuable that anti-corruption measures are on the agenda, and this could lead to positive steps down the road.
"I wouldn't really hold my breath that this G-20 is going to make a big contribution... The exciting news-- for those of you who are interested in anti-corruption, I think the next six months or the next 12 months are going to be extremely interesting…because of the Frank-Dodd requirement that extractive industry investors publish in their annual reports payments to governments where they do business." (presentation audio)
How to Make the G-20 A More Credible Institution?
Vij Ramachandran shares her proposal, outlined in a working paper she co-authored with Enrique Rueda-Sabater, for fundamentally reforming the membership and governance of the G-20. She would include the 16 countries which represent 2% of either the world's population or its economic output. A further 5 seats would be allocated to rotating regional representatives.
"The G-20 is of course better than the G-8, but it's still not representative and it therefore undermines its own legitimacy...I want to argue that this is an interim G-20. I think we can do better. We can develop what I would call a real G-20. And for that we need to think about how to make the G-20 more credible and more transparent; how to make the selection of its members more objective so that it can become legitimate as a global decision-making body." (presentation audio)
Have something to add to the discussion? Ideas for future interviews? Post a comment below. If you use iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week.
My thanks to Wren Elhai for his very able production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and for drafting this blog post.