Surprising for a superpower that still believes it leads a unipolar world, US President Barack Obama’s March 24, 2009 op-ed published in 31 newspapers was free of arrogance. Whether that’s a recognition of the emergence of a multi-polar world a quarter of a century down the road or whether that’s a true spirit of cooperation that Obama hopes to usher in following the country’s Bush-led isolation, we will know some day.
His prime focus, as he has spoken about earlier, remains the same: “Our efforts must begin with swift action to stimulate growth.” That to him means fiscal stimulus, which not all G20 members would be able to afford. Obama urged the G20 to “embrace” open trade and investment and resist protectionism.
Protectionism is something that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had laid out strongly, and India was probably the first to flag the issue, during the Washington meet on November 15, 2008. Subsequently, it became part of the Washington Declaration — under Point No 13 and as part of G20’s commitment to an open global economy, the G20 leaders put out this rather brave statement, which subsequently, as we all know, was thrown in bin on the way out.
“We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward in times of financial uncertainty. In this regard, within the next 12 months, we will refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing World Trade Organization (WTO) inconsistent measures to stimulate exports. Further, we shall strive to reach agreement this year on modalities that leads to a successful conclusion to the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda with an ambitious and balanced outcome. We instruct our Trade Ministers to achieve this objective and stand ready to assist directly, as necessary. We also agree that our countries have the largest stake in the global trading system and therefore each must make the positive contributions necessary to achieve such an outcome.”
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