THE first task for the leaders of the Group of 20, who will meet in London on April 2nd, will be to do no harm. Don’t fall out over whether Germany and China are spending enough public money to get the world economy going. Let’s not have a row over how to run the IMF. And spare us a tirade against “market fundamentalism”.
The second task is to do something useful. Ideally, the G20 would boost government spending, partly by giving the IMF more money. And it would take five minutes to shunt the re-regulation of finance into groups that can deliberate now and act later, when there is more time and less ire: the last thing to fear from Wall Street today is irrational exuberance.
It is the third task that is being neglected. Publicly, the G20’s leaders would be shocked, shocked if anyone were to turn against open markets. Even so, trade is collapsing and an insidious protectionism is on the rise (see article). As the storm rages, the London summit looks like offering nothing but pieties. The trading system needs more than that.