G20 meets in U.S.

Instead of rolling out the red carpet, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania literally shut down to host, or more accurately accommodate, last week’s G20 summit.

From Sept. 24 to 25, the city welcomed numerous global heavyweights, the anticipated slew of protestors, and thousands of additional riot police who had to be called in for backup.

American President Barack Obama chaired this summit, which featured leaders from across the globe sitting down for the first time since the London G20 Summit this past April.

The London Summit was a particularly ominous occasion, as the world markets appeared to be on the verge of the next Great Depression.

BBC went so far as to say that in London the G20 leaders had a “gun to their heads,” so to speak, to come up with a timely solution in the face of a looming global crisis.

However, this time it was a much different scenario.

Today, many of the G20 member countries are emerging from the depths of the global recession.

As this latest summit took place in the aftermath of the crisis, topics of discussion and debate varied greatly from the group’s pre-crisis meeting.

Discussions focused on questions of a reorganization of global powers, high unemployment levels in recovering economies, and how to prevent a future financial meltdown.

At the end of the two-day summit, the Associated Press reported that Obama praised the G20 leaders for their vigilance, their policy, and their forward thinking.

“We brought the global economy back from the brink. We laid the groundwork today for long term prosperity,” Obama was quoted as saying.

Why Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania may seem an unusual choice for a meeting place of such great global powerhouses. However, given the current economic situation, this locale makes perfect sense.

Pittsburgh was once known as “Steel City.”

In the 1950s and 1960s the city was known for its profitable industry, but, with the collapse of the North American manufacturing sector in the 1970s, Pittsburgh suffered immensely.

Recently, the city has made a remarkable comeback.

A concerted effort toward new growth outside of the manufacturing sector offered Pittsburgh redemption from its days as a member of the washed up “Rust Belt.”

With the location pick, President Obama hoped to inspire the weathered economies of his fellow G20 comrades.

The Associated Press reported Obama’s praising words, “Pittsburgh was a perfect venue for this work.

“This community has known its share of hard times. It picked itself up and dusted itself off. It serves as a model for turning the page to a 21st century.”

Hot topics

The G20 countries comprise 85 per cent of the world’s economy.

Recovery from the global financial and economic crisis, not surprisingly, was the number one issue at the Pittsburgh Summit.

World leaders vowed to reverse high levels of unemployment globally and “put quality jobs at the heart of the recovery.”

Discussions of scaling back bankers’ bonuses and combating climate change were also given high priority.

In addition, renewed fears of Iranian nuclear capabilities, which were highly publicized at the annual United Nations summit earlier that week, found their way into G20 talks.

President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown all took the opportunity to speak publicly on reports surfacing of a second covert uranium enrichment plant existing within Iranian territory.

According to a White House press release, Brown said, “America, the United Kingdom, and France are at one. Iran’s nuclear program is the most urgent proliferation challenge that the world faces today.”

The protestors

Protests and riot police have become synonymous with G20 summits.

Anti-globalization protestors have clashed with authorities since the first 1999 summit in Berlin.

According to the Associated Press, Obama dismissed claims that the protestors had any serious impact on the summit.

Obama was quoted in the BBC saying, “Ironically, if [the protestors had paid attention, they would have heard a strong recognition that it is important to make sure that the market is working for ordinary people… If they are actually interested, they should read the communiqué.”

Canada at the summit

As a member of the G20, Canada was also present in Pittsburgh.

CBC reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was less optimistic about the global state of economic recovery.

“I don’t think we can say the recession is over,” he said, while stressing the importance of ongoing economic reform, stimulus packages, and strict regulations for the financial industry.

Sweeping promises

According to G20 press releases, “The G20 leaders reached a historic agreement to put the G20 at the centre of their efforts to work together to build a durable recovery while avoiding the financial fragilities that led to the crisis.”

In addition to outlining tough financial regulations to combat the possibility of future economic meltdowns, the group vowed to continue the “fight against protectionism,” to “reform the global architecture,” and made a collective commitment to “move toward greener, more sustainable growth.”

G20

The Group of Twenty, as it is formally known, is an assembly comprised of the 20 largest economies on earth. The group was formed in 1999 in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

Future summits

Huntsville, Canada in June 2010
Korea in November 2010
(Thereafter the G20 will meet annually)
France in 2011

Past summits

London, United Kingdom in April 2009
Washington, D.C., United States in 2008
Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2008
Cape Town, South Africa in 2007
Melbourne, Australia in 2006
Beijing, China in 2005
Berlin, Germany in 2004
Morelia, Mexico in 2003
New Delhi, India in 2002
Ottawa, Canada in 2001
Montreal, Canada in 2000
Berlin, Germany in 1999

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