Optimism from emerging nations marks G-20 meet

Optimism from emerging nations marks G-20 meet

LOS CABOS - The Asosciated Press
Optimism from emerging nations marks G-20 meet

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the closing session of the G-20 Summit of Heads of State and Government in Los Cabos, Baja California. AFP photo

The scene at the just-concluded Group of 20 summit held in this seaside resort would have been unthinkable a decade ago: Hundreds of dignitaries gathered in opulent Mexican hotels and convention halls to hammer out an economic bailout for Europe. Meanwhile, the leaders of Brazil and China kicked in tens of billions of dollars to the International Monetary Fund to rescue downtrodden Spain and Greece.

Although the gathering did not produce a solution for the ailing eurozone, it did outline the globe’s new balance of power. Developing countries projected optimism and wealth over the summit’s two days, while European and U.S. leaders struggled just to stay solvent.

A lot has clearly changed since the 1990s, when Asian and Latin American economies were slogging through recessions while Washington-based power brokers ordered up the very kind of austerity-minded prescriptions now sparking street protests in Europe.

Trade partners rise with China

Even during recent economic crises in the U.S. and Europe, China has been posting annual growth rates topping 8 percent. Countries with booming Chinese trade, such as Argentina and Ethiopia, have similarly seen their economies thrive. China’s economy surpassed Japan’s over the past year to become the world’s second biggest; Brazil’s overtook the U.K.’s to take sixth place.

“It is a different picture and reflects the fact that (developing) economies are not only the largest and fastest growing economies but are among the biggest economies in the world,” said Uri Dadush, director of the international economics program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Clearly, neither the Americans nor the Europeans are in any position to tell the biggest economies what to do.”

Mexican President Felipe Calderon cut to the point while speaking to reporters on June 19 in the afternoon as he noted developing world contributions to the IMF for a possible European bailout. Although the countries still have lower standards of living, their economies are growing and many have amassed large foreign reserves.

China had pledged $43 billion to the fund, while India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia each chipped in $10 billion. The United States, Calderon drily noted, was not giving a single penny, due to “serious restrictions of a legal and political nature.” In other words, coughing up billions to save Europe was impossible for deadlocked U.S. politicians, especially in an election year and as the country struggled with its own budget deficits, economic analysts said.

Bid for bigger role

University of Maryland economist Phillip Swagel, a former Treasury Department official in the George W. Bush administration, said developing countries’ new economic power was already translating into growing political might.

In fact, the BRICS countries representing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were the ones making demands on Europe during the summit, saying they should be given a bigger role in the governance of the IMF if they were going to send billions to the fund. Europeans have traditionally led the organization since its founding nearly seven decades ago.

“With their resources comes a greater say,” Swagel said. “It’s a big change. We were once telling Asian counties what to do.”

The power shift was clear in the air-conditioned hallways and balmy outdoor lounges of the G-20 where dignitaries and reporters mingled.

News crews from Ethiopia and China filled press conferences, while Brazilian and Russian leaders drew the most attention. Humbled European heads of state stepped before TV cameras to thank China for helping out while promising that their countries would do better.

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