20-20 is hindsight; G-20’s is blindsight


World leaders extended by one year their vow not to put up new trade barriers at the Group of 20 summit on Tuesday in a last-minute deal that exposed deep rifts over protectionism. The agreement to refrain from new protectionist measures until the end of 2014 as part of world leaders’ efforts to foster global growth was included in the final G20 communique. Mexican President Felipe Calderon said it was hard won and struck only at the very end of two-day talks in the Pacific resort of Los Cabos. “There was resistance from some countries but beyond that we did manage to get a consensus and arrive at an agreement,” he told a news conference after the meeting. Brazil, Argentina and South Africa had resisted extending the trade pledge beyond its current expiry at the end of 2013, while other countries wanted to push it back to 2015, a diplomat with knowledge of the G20 trade talks said. The deadlock was broken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the diplomat said.
ALARM RISING: Ahead of the summit, Japan and the European Union had sent strong warnings that free trade was under threat as some countries respond to slowing growth by trying to protect their domestic industries. “The EU is sounding the alarm regarding a worrisome rise in protectionism,” EU President Jose Manuel Barroso said as G20 members arrived in Los Cabos.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called for world leaders to stamp out any efforts to lessen free trade. “I see signs of protectionism emerging in the G20 debate, so we should deliver a message to counter (that),” he told reporters. Fearful that trade protectionism would slow global growth, G20 leaders at the height of the financial crisis in November 2008 first pledged to refrain from erecting any new trade barriers, often used to shield domestic businesses from world competition at times of economic stress. Despite that effort, a WB report released on Sunday found that G20 nations have accounted for the vast majority of the more than 1,000 new protectionist measures that have been introduced between Nov 2008 and March 2012.