G20 analysis: A new world order – built on shaky foundations

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THERE was hype and hyperbole surrounding the "historic" agreement reached at yesterday's G20 Summit in London.

But it is only when the fireworks fizzle out that the scorched earth beneath them can truly be assessed.

Talk of "green shoots" was already sweeping through the venue in east London.

However, early foliage has a habit of being wiped out by late frosts. World markets rallied amid the largely positive coverage of the summit. But this was before the ink had dried, let alone before the appendices to the communiqu had been released.

Yesterday's deal did have some substance – but not enough on the key issues that threaten to continue to undermine world markets.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was right when he declared that Prime Minister Gordon Brown "dedicated all his heart" to the declaration.

But it was always going to be impossible to get 20 world leaders to agree all their cash for the deal really to make an immediate impact.

Overall, it was a public relations triumph for Mr Brown. He was praised by world leaders, including man-of-the-moment Barack Obama, and none of the threatened strops by the French came to fruition.

There was also hope offered for struggling eastern and central European economies. The complicated-sounding "Special Drawing Rights" for the International Monetary Fund will inject desperately needed funds into fledging countries.

More importantly, it will also mean that the burden does not immediately fall on the "big" economies, such as America and the UK. Stabilising smaller countries now will save more money in the long run.

China will be a much more significant contributor to the IMF, but for this Beijing will expect to flex more muscle in the organisation.

This perhaps underscores the changing nature of the "new world order", with America and the West losing influence to their eastern counterparts.

There was also progress on getting international agreement about tax havens, with the list of "rogue" states refusing to cough up their details halved from six to three in just one day. But a much larger "grey" list of tax havens still exists, with countries such as Switzerland continuing to employ stalling tactics.

Nations that refuse to exchange tax information could in the future supposedly face "tough" sanctions, including the withdrawal of financing by the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

But there was not a penny of fresh fiscal stimulus pledged, despite this initially being top of the priority list for the US and Britain. The term is mentioned only once in the final communiqu.

There was also little substance on world trade and reducing protectionism. Progress on this will be impossible without America's consent.

The $250 billion announced for world trade is not actual money being pumped in by governments. It is a finance package, with just 40 per cent directly from governments and the rest being raised from the private sector – although who the investors will be has yet to be clarified. It is also split over two years. But the former chancellor turned prime minister is famed for double-counting money.

There was some modest progress on regulation, such as finally looking at reining in hedge funds.

But the missing ingredient for a healthy economy was a plan for how to clear up banks' dodgy toxic assets. And no economic powerhouse can be rebuilt without first underpinning its shaky foundations: its banks.

The six key accords in summit's communiqu – and how they scored

FINANCIAL RESOLUTION

THERE were many soothing words about regulation, but few details.

The crunch issue of persuading banks to lend again will remain unresolved if financial institutions do not have rules on how to ditch toxic assets – and how to avoid another banking crisis.

For the first time, some hedge fund activities will be regulated. There was support for more candid surveillance of economies and financial sectors and credit agencies.

And there was a pledge to crack down on bankers' pay.

Effectiveness: 2/5

TAX HAVENS

GORDON Brown, the Prime Minister, has predicted the end of tax havens.

He had reason for confidence, as leaders pledged that countries that would not co-operate with signing up to agreements on information-sharing would be named and shamed.

By yesterday evening, the OECD had published a "blacklist" of countries that were unwilling to sign up to the transparency code.

Initially, there were six countries on the list, but by last night just three were left as Brunei, Guatemala and Malaysia hastily agreed to fall into line. That left Costa Rica, the Philippines and Uruguay as "rogue" tax states.

Effectiveness: 4/5

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

RESOURCES to the International Monetary Fund have been trebled to allow emerging economies to draw on its cash to inject liquidity into their own economies. Its funds have soared from $250 billion to $750 billion thanks to the agreement at the summit.

An injection of $500 billion has been given to the fund to help developing countries.

Meanwhile, an additional $250 billion will be made available in "Special Drawing Rights", which is effectively an overdraft facility.

Officials privately say they are not expecting the IMF to need all the resources, but the plan is designed to reassure struggling nations it will be able to bail out any country in fear of going bust.

If smaller eastern and central European economies can be saved, it will save bigger countries such as the UK and the US from having to bail them out.

The IMF will also sell some of its gold reserves, and give the money to the poorest companies. The sale of gold will be done gradually rather than all at once, to avoid depressing the boom in gold markets. In uncertain times, the price of gold rockets as investors take their money out of "riskier" vehicles.

Effectiveness: 3/5

Verdict: 3/5

FINANCIAL STIMULUS

FISCAL stimulus was what could perhaps be described as the "elephant in the room".

This was what Britain and America had been pushing for, despite the best efforts of their leaders to play down expectations on this front.

The communiqu promised that there would be an "unprecedented" global fiscal expansion of $5 trillion, which it said would save or create millions of jobs that would otherwise have been destroyed. Crucially, it is not new money – but an aggregation of the additional spending programmes and tax cuts already announced around the world for this year and next.

France and Germany had argued that the fiscal programmes already announced should be given time to work before pumping more large sums into the world economy.

However, Gordon Brown is trying to dress up the $1.1 trillion as evidence of fiscal stimulus.

In fact, these are funds being made available to the International Monetary Fund, rather than being injected immediately into world economies. China will be a bigger contributor and will want greater voting rights for the privilege.

Effectiveness: 2/5

Rating: 2/5

WORLD TRADE

A PACKAGE worth $250 billion was agreed to boost world trade.

The communiqu pledges that world leaders "will ensure availability" of this amount for the next two years, so the money will not all be available immediately. There was also a commitment to working towards the completion of the Doha trade round, which seeks to reach a deal on protectionism, but crucially no timetable for this.

Countries also pledged not to devalue their own currencies to give themselves an unfair advantage, while anti-protectionist measures were also condemned.

Effectiveness: 2/5

Rating: 2/5

ENVIRONMENT

THERE was disappointment last night about the lack of progress on the environment. The communiqu agreed by world leaders tacked this on to the end of their statement, and environmental campaigners said it smacked of an afterthought.

No money was pledged for "green" initiatives, although this was one of the areas of economic growth potential trumpeted by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. There are vague promises to "transition" more quickly to a green economy and to "build a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery", but no detail on how this would be done.

Effectiveness: 1/5

THE G20: MORE COVERAGE

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