The G-20 Proves Its Worth

Our guest blogger is Nina Hachigian, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

g20.jpegThe G-20 has proven its worth as a global gathering. The leaders didn’t do as much as they could have to address the global economic contraction — a path forward on trade and a real push on green recoveries joined new stimulus in the category of “left undone” — but $1 trillion for the IMF is nothing to sneeze at, and should prevent a great deal of suffering, both here and around the globe. Similarly, opening up the Financial Stability Forum up to G-20 finance ministers and central bankers will, in theory, anyway, give that group a lot more information to work with as it tries to identify vulnerabilities in the global economy going forward.

These 20 plus leaders were able, in the end, to overcome their differences — or at least paper over them over — and take concrete action. To me, that counts as real progress.

There is still much work to be done, both on the global economy and on the G-20. For one, now that it has met twice, its time to start thinking about the rules of the road for this new global body. Chief among them, as my colleagues at CAP and I argue in a new report, is that the membership should evolve. We can’t afford another institution that quickly outlives its usefulness but lingers on in the international system like a bad cough, sucking up time and energy. We propose that every 5 years, beginning in 2014 so we don’t distract from the urgent business at hand, the group reconstitute itself with the top two economies from each of five regions, plus the next ten top economies. That way the relevant players remain at the table. It took a Great Depression level crisis to bring the G-20 to life even though the G-8’s performance had been marginal, at best, for years.

President Obama walked a fine line at the summit. He listened but he also helped forge a consensus. He accepted responsibility but he also led. That is what the world is looking for from American and more such performances of diplomacy and good policy will earn us back some legitimacy in the years to come.