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From G8 to G20: the end of exclusion

Larry Elliott
16 November 2008

Despite all the pre-match hype, the gathering of the G20 in Washington on 15 November 2008 was never going to be a second Bretton Woods, the 1944 conference that laid the foundations for the international economic order of the postwar era.

The first Bretton Woods took two and a half years to prepare and was dominated by the United States. Countries have had barely a month to prepare for the event convened by George Bush in the midst of the financial markets' meltdown and, predictably enough, they have different views on what needs to be done.

Some - Germany and Canada in particular - are wary of letting borrowing rip in order to fund tax cuts. Washington, despite the huge problems caused by the reckless lending of banks, is hostile to the heavy regulation of big finance favoured by the French and Germans.

Barack Obama cast a long shadow over the talks, even though the President-elect carefully allowed Bush to hog the limelight on his last big set-piece occasion. Obama is thought to favour a bigger package of tax cuts and is open to ideas such as clamping down on tax havens, but these decisions will not be taken until after his January inauguration. The summit was Hamlet without the prince.

(For the rest of this article, click here)

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Larry Elliott is economics editor of the Guardian. Among his books are (both co-written with Dan Atkinson) Fantasy Island (Constable & Robinson, 2007) and The Gods that Failed: How Blind Faith in Markets has Cost us Our Future (The Bodley Head, 2008)  

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