Bland leading the blind at G20 summit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 July, 2012, 12:00am


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I've just done something I bet no one else in Hong Kong has done. And if they take 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 summit 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, multi-lateralism 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 with the grand title 'Los Cabos Growth and Jobs Action Plan'. Now we can all agree 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 they started as the G6 and it was a meeting of the finance ministers of six major industrialised countries - France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US. The next year Canada was allowed to join and the organisation became 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 chequebooks with them. Hence the G20.

There have been some famous and significant government meetings over the years: the trio of gatherings during the second world war at Potsdam, Tehran and Yalta which resulted in victory for the allies, and 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 also hosted an important conference on climate change.

But this latest meeting of the G20 in Los Cabos - a parcel of desert in Mexico - was just a talkfest. And the declaration - almost certainly not read by a single leader - was a mere cloak to explain why so many of them had spent their taxpayers' money on a holiday in the sun.

Mike Rowse is the search director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.