Thursday, November 11, 2010

5 Most Important Issues at G20 Meeting

By Eric Jackson11/11/10 - 04:00 AM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It seems like yesterday that the most recent G20 was gathering in Toronto to discuss a more coordinated response by governments and central banks to deal with potential crises. That was five months ago. We're about to start a new G20 meeting, this time in Seoul, today.

It's useful to remember past expectations for these meetings and their results. G20 meetings tend to be heavy on hype going in, with plenty of chances for photo-ops and analysis by talking heads.

However, the crafting of the end-of-summit "declaration" starts a few hours after the leaders first sit down to talk. The final details are hammered out by underling administrators showing complete unanimity by all parties.

Recall that it was expected that the Toronto summit would center on countries pressuring China to let the yuan float upwards. The night before the event started, the Chinese government announced it would be open to such flexibility. The country offered no details on how or when it would make such adjustments (although it has followed through modestly since then). The announcement was sufficient to deflect attention from the issue for the meeting.

So, despite the recent rhetoric about the risk of future "currency wars" among countries trying to increase competitiveness, or the supposed anger by foreignfinance ministers over the Federal Reserve's decision last week to proceed with a new program of quantitative easing, or calls for China to -- again -- raise the value of the yuan against the dollar, I expect little discussion of these issues in Seoul or in the final statement.

So much of the public talking points we hear -- whether it's from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama or the Chinese government -- relating to these issues is mere "political theater" meant to score points with the public back home that government officials are doing something in their people's best interest.

So, rather than paying attention to these issues, it will be more interesting to monitor some of those that are less popular, but potentially significant, that don't attract attention from the folks back home and, therefore, can truly be issues where coordinated agreement can occur.

I think very highly of Canadian central banker Mark Carney. A Goldman Sachs(GS_) alum, he is a straight-talker and eminently reasonable, in my view. While young and early in his tenure at the bank, he is already highly regarded by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other central-bank peers.


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