I always enjoy reading the communiques of international meetings and winkling out the weasel words or saving clauses introduced at the last moment to bring further argument on principle to a conclusion.

In the communique of the G20 meeting in Washington at the weekend I noticed one choice example: after the document recorded the meeting's vow to “use fiscal measures to stimulate domestic demand to rapid effect (Gordon Brown's wording, I suspect), two little words had been added -- “as appropriate”! In other words any of the nations at the meeting finding that stimulating domestic demand might not work for them will be able to opt-out with a clear conscience.

Still and all, the meeting did lay down some useful principles on which further action will be taken when the ghost at this particular feast (Barack Obama) appears in substance at the next gathering, due to be held in Britain in April.

Before then finance ministers have been given a list of things to do including: reviewing global accountancy standards, strengthening derivatives markets, reviewing compensation practices in financial institutions and reviewing the mandates, governance and resource requirements of international insitutions ( a reference, presumably to the World Bank and IMF).

An important statement was about the critical importance of rejecting the protectionism that contributed to the 1930s Depression and, in that context and unexpectedly, to try to revive the Doha round of trade talks which had seemed defunct.


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