My impression of the summit so far
I am waiting for the Sarkozy-Merkel press conference. Here is my impression of the day and the summit so far.
First, if you needed any reminding of the severity of the problems we are dealing with, the lightning occupation and rooftop protests by workers at three Visteon factories provides it. The company was put into administration yesterday: immediate pay cuts for the workforce, plus the loss of their pension rights is what made them take action unprecedented in the manufacturing sector for a decade.
Visteon was spun off from Ford a couple of years ago and now it is bust: that is how close to bust some of our major companies are. I just spoke to the strikers at Enfield over the phone and they are all too well aware of the link between their story and the one I am trying to report today.
The good news is, so are the politicians. I can think of no ruling politician who is prepared to say "let the crisis rip", as Hoover did in the early 1930s, and as happened under the Conservatives in the early 1980s.
This is not to do with party politics; there is a centre-left, centre-right consensus on display here that the poor, the powerless and the ordinary Joe has to be protected from the heavy impact of stagnation.
In that sense Obama-Brown felt historic; the President may be on the way up, the PM probably on the way out, but it was a moment when the UK and US stood together and explicitly espoused what you might call a social justice agenda. And it looks like that new, shared agenda will survive any change of government here.
What clearly threw Obama was the question from the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson: people are blaming America, who do you blame? Also, the suggestion that American power is waning, he did not like the question and swerved it with a soundbite.
The fact is the rest of the world thinks the Anglo Saxon model caused this crisis and they see American power as diminished. Whatever public denial, the success of the G20 process depends on the US elite understanding the new reality. Obama, as a former student of "power analysis" gets it, but the US elite as a whole (and electorate) probably not.
Behind the rhetoric, what Merkel-Sarko are about to do is issue a notice that the EU giants will have universal regulation as one of the goals of tomorrow; even though the rest of the G20 lined up pro fiscal stimulus with Obama, do not think they are any softer on the Anglo Saxon model.
Above all, the quiet signals are: the emerging world will not see the cost of recovery dumped onto them via a dollar devaluation. China is elbowing its way to leadership of the "non-blue-eyed" capitalists. Its proposal for a new global reserve currency will not get into the communiqué, but the Chinese have risked a lot of face on this. They will push the idea hard in the back channels.
What we are about to see (tune into BBC News channel to see the back of my head) is the Franco-German powerhouse of Europe lay down its red lines on regulation. It is a moment with resonance way beyond economics.
Europe will have its equal voice; forget the Sarko walkout: if they do not get global regulation they will shut US finance as we know it out of Europe using single EU regulation. Cynics who think the UK will hegemonise any EU regulator are probably going to be disabused.
As I write the hacks around me are getting excited about the ransacking of an RBS building. But a much bigger act of force is happening, albeit served by genteel surroundings and instant translation; the re-arrangement of global power.
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