If there is one thing that can be said about the newly-concluded G-20 summit in Seoul it is that everyone can claim it was a success, without having to do anything immediately about it, and certainly not the same thing. The final communiqué’s wording left open many interpretations of its headline commitments, that the major economies have agreed to refrain from competitive devaluations, that they will get the IMF to come up with indicative guidelines to tackle imbalances, and give emerging economies a bigger say in the IMF.
None of those represent much if any advance from where the G-20’s finance ministers had got earlier this month at their preparatory meeting, but given the gradual drifting apart of the consensus over the coordinated management of the global economy that had formed to deal with the global financial crisis of 2008 and the substantial differences over currencies, trade and quantitative easing going into the meeting (and expressed acrimoniously at times during it, we hear, particularly when Chinese and American officials were in the same room) that was not nothing. But the leaders came up with neither timetables nor hard goals to turn their good intentions, however vague, into actionable policy: a what, but no when nor how much. (Asking the IMF to look at something next year doesn’t count as a when.)
So on to the APEC summit in Yokohama for many of the G-20 leaders to reprise many of the same economic issues with similar lack of progress. Meanwhile, this Bystander feels, the Seoul Action Plan, for, yes, the G-20’s communiqué lays it out, will be rather like the revaluation of the yuan, all in its own time.