You wouldn't know the summits were happening if you scanned the front pages of the world's newspapers. Many international papers were dominated by World Cup news, American front pages featured updates on the Gulf oil spill and finance reform. Several regional Canadian papers left the summit news to their inside pages, with many focused on the NHL draft.
After a little digging, this is what little coverage the G20 nations had about this weekend's summit.
Australia: New Leader!
"Wayne Swan will perform one of his first duties as deputy prime minister this weekend when he meets leaders from the world's biggest economies, as he stands in for his new boss, Prime Minister Julia Gillard."
"With the prime minister immersed in business at home, it appears unlikely Australia will make the list of the select few nations to get an audience with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"Australia will also take a strong stand against a number of European nations and the US, which want to place a global levy on banks.
The Buenos Aires Herald taught us two things, a helpful shorthand for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's name (they call her CFK) and that the South American nation sees the G20 as a chance to tackle the IMF's demands on Argentina's debt situation:
"She is to once again question the orthodox recipes suggested to pull Europe out of its crisis, in the midst of a personal bid against the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
Argentina closed the debt-swap, "with the intention of re-negotiating its debt with the Paris Club in order to return to the voluntary credit markets.
"In order to take that step with the group of most powerful nations, to which it owes US$6 billion, Argentina needs to reach an agreement with the IMF, which would imply opening its books to international supervision.
"Until now, Argentina has denied the IMF permission to audit macroeconomic data, a 'right' found under the so-called Article IV, and it is the only country of the group that maintains an irregular relationship with the organism."
This may just be the Google translator, but news channel TVI24's website had this a pithy summary of the feeling of the street protesters in Toronto:
"'The police are the shock troops of austerity, do not be afraid, do not feel intimidated,' said one of the activists, who maintained their positions as police prevented them from moving forward."
And on the austerity versus stimulus front, O Globo's coverage suggests Brazil is for spending:
"According to him, the spokesman of the Presidency, Marcelo Baumbach, said Thursday Lula believes that the resumption of growth is the best remedy for the imbalance of public accounts, an issue that lies at the heart of the current economic times.
"The president also again advocates for reform of global financial institutions to give more power to emerging countries and more power to these bodies to combat crises.
"'Brazil does not think it's time to give excessive importance to the creation of surpluses, but rather to focus on economic growth,' the spokesman told reporters."
China: New Global Currency!
State news agency Xinhua's take was that the G20's main focus was to "address the flaws of the world's financial system so as to prevent the repeat of the current global crisis." No mention of the yuan's appreciation, a major issue in the leadup to the summit in every other large economy. But there was a keen interest to reform the IMF and for BRIC nations to find a replacement for "the dollar standard system," in which the U.S. greenback is the world's reserve currency.
" The lesson we can learn from the crisis is that the dollar standard system is harmful to both the United States and the rest of the world," Xiang Songzuo, deputy head of international monetary studies at China's Renmin University, told Xinhua.
The agency went on to say: "Statistics show an imbalance between demand and supply of the world's major reserve currency, the dollar, as the U.S. economy represents 24 percent of the global GDP while it accounts for 42 percent of the world's total sovereign debt, 52 percent of bank loans and 64 percent of foreign reserves."
France: A Constitution!
Le Monde published a somewhat radical op-ed, that suggested the G20 needs to constitutionalize itself, along the lines of the European Union, because:
"The representativeness of the G20 is undeniable: it represents 90% of world GDP and two thirds of the population.The major emerging countries are present: Russia, Brazil, China. However, the status of the G20 itself is ambiguous."
Der Spiegel does a great job of putting into perspective Chancellor Angela Merkel's support for two somewhat unpopular ideas: Budget austerity and bank taxes.
"On Thursday she told German public broadcaster ARD that her center-right coalition was going to 'implement the efforts we have agreed to,' adding: 'I do not think we should relent.'
"She said that sustained growth could only be guaranteed by getting a grip on deficits and debt. 'I and the EU will argue this position. There are others who are not yet so convinced of this exit strategy.' "
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Save or take on more debts on a grand scale? This in short will be one of the conflicts at the summit. The chancellor has so far not been persuaded by the president's requests to support the economy with more stimulus measures. And in Canada she will also oppose the claim that Germany is not doing enough for the global economy. That is plainly nonsense. But because the trans-Atlantic dispute cannot be allowed to go too far, when it comes to growth strategies, both sides will read into the final communiqué whatever suits their own domestic agendas."
India: Don't kill the recovery!
Mark India down as another anti-bank-tax country, sounding worries on the 'fragile and uneven' economic recovery, The Hindustan Times reports:
"A proposal to tax bank transactions to help some of the global economies tide over the current financial crises will be opposed by India at the G20 summit, even as it will ask rich countries not to abruptly withdraw their stimuli packages, officials said Friday.
" 'You cannot tax everybody to pull some countries out of the current crisis,' a top official said, ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Toronto for the G20 Summit.
And the Times of India reports: "The prime minister stressed India's need for investment and capital flows and rooted for 'an open and rule-based trading system that does not succumb to protectionist tendencies.' "
The Jakarta Globe wins for the most honest headline of the day: Economic Giants Get Their Disagreements Under Way.
And their thumbnail sketch of the topline issue isn't bad either:
"President Barack Obama was getting little support for his warnings that countries should not pull back their stimulus efforts too quickly: Britain, Germany, France and Japan have all unveiled deficit-cutting plans. Canada is playing peacemaker, warning of the need to pull together to solve the Greek debt crisis."
Italy: 30 million jobs!
The Italian press was already predicting the failure of the bank tax at the G8, and worries of failure at the G20. La Repubblica printed that "the International Monetary Fund already yesterday sounded the alarm: a lack of agreement could create a situation that can jeopardize 30 million jobs and four-trillion dollars of growth."
Also, the Italian press seems to have an unusual definition of the G8:
"The G8, the seven 'great' western nations, including Italy, plus Russia."
We're pretty sure the G stands for Group, as in Group of Eight, or 20. But we think you're great too, Italy.
Japan: Another New Leader!
The first thing Prime Minister Naoto Kan wanted to know on his way to the G8/G20 summits was whether Japan had advanced in the World Cup ( Answer: Yes).
"I congratulate this achievement from my heart," said Kan, en route to the Group of Eight summit and other conferences in Canada. "I hope the team will unite as one and put up a good fight under coach (Takeshi) Okada to continue its success at the tournament stage."
And Kyodo news service reports Japan's aim for Saturday morning will be to hammer out a group approach to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula:
" Rising tension on the divided Korean Peninsula following the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March is also expected to be among major agenda items.
"Japan and the United States are hoping to get the other G8 countries to agree on a concerted approach to the sinking, which was blamed on North Korea when the results of a multinational investigation were released last month."
South Korea: North Korea!
The World Cup and North Korea are also on the mind of South Korea, not to mention the 60th anniversary of the war in the peninsula. But as Yonhap News Agency reports:
" 'President Lee will present the direction of the world economy after the (2008-2009) crisis and focus on improving understanding on new agenda items,' Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye told reporters, adding that South Korea wants the G20 to start formal discussions on ways to foster development of poor nations and create a global financial safety net in the November summit."
As for Canadian's, we just want to know "where's the beef?" As Reuters reports
"China agreed on Thursday to accept Canadian boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age and beef tallow, as a first step to full market access.
"The deal with China leaves South Korea as the only country to maintain its ban Canadian beef after an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy disease in 2003. It is expected to push Seoul toward resolving a dispute with Canada that's currently before the World Trade Organization."
Mexico: We have a summit coming up!
It's somewhat poorly translated from Spanish, but the gist of Mr. Calderon's public diplomacy will be around promoting his country's hosting of the next climate convention:
"President Felipe Calderón will participate on Saturday and Sunday at the Fourth Summit of Leaders of the G20, among whom he will make a presentation of progress and remaining challenges XVI towards the UN Convention on Climate Change to be held in Cancun, Quintana Roo."
And in El Universal, it was predicted that Calderon will push to lower trade barriers within North America:
"Although the Mexican president will insist on the issue of lowering the protectionism, he has complained that in previous meetings of the G20, especially those of Pittsburgh and Washington in 2008 and 2009, all agree to stop protectionism, but to leave the meeting the first thing they have done is strengthen protectionist measures."
Russian news sites seem, uh, a little less than sober. I really hope this isn't just the translator (feel free to let us know if Google's got it wrong, or if the Russians really do write news like this) on the protests in Toronto:
" The leitmotif of their foul calls on the Internet can be described by Gorky: 'Let the storm will break soon. " Они обещают мировому капитализму горячие три дня. They promise world capitalism hot for three days. Канадская королевская полиция в свою очередь сообщает, что запаслась цистернами с водой - будет остужать горячие головы. Royal Canadian Police, in turn, said that the tanks stocked with water - will cool the hot heads. Канадская королевская полиция в свою очередь сообщает, что запаслась цистернами с водой - будет остужать горячие головы."
But Pravda takes the cake, here's their most recent top stories:
- Australia's New Ptime Minister To Face Severe Unfeminine Problems
- USA and Israel Bring Smell of Gunpowder to Persian Gulf
- Words of Truth Leave US Troops in Afghanistan Without Commander
- Obama Gradually Slides into Snake Pit that He Digs for Himself
For somewhat sane views on Russia, we recommend the new Kremlin Twitter feed:
"Met with David Cameron. Have agreed that we'll continue to speak in person, not just online @number10gov"
Saudi Arabia: Oil!
The Arab News called the summit an "economic clash of civilizations," but didn't really spell out what that meant.
They did provide some interesting text on how the Saudi's refer to their ruler and themselves: "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is already in Toronto to represent Saudi Arabia at the summit. Saudi membership of the G20 is in direct recognition of its position as the single largest oil exporter in the world, in addition to being a country with the largest oil reserves."
Their view of the summit prep was also, um, interesting:
"Canadian police patrolled the Lake Ontario waterfront on boats and jet skis. The number of security forces protecting the summit meetings was estimated at 19,000, drawn from all over Canada.
"Under the new regulations, police, at their discretion, can deny access to the [security zone]and 'use whatever force is necessary' to keep people out.
"A number of schools in the downtown Toronto area, including the prestigious University of Toronto's downtown campus, were closed down and exams rescheduled, so as to avoid any major disturbance."
South Africa: Window Dressing?
In South Africa's Mail and Guardian there was some concern about "window dressing" over Stephen Harper's invitation of seven African countries - South Africa, Malawi, Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt - to attend this year's G8 summit.
" African leaders make themselves objects of ridicule if they just engage in conversations on the sidelines of these kinds of meetings," said Dr Francis Ikome, director of the African and Southern African programme at the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD).
"A leader should not fly all the way to Canada just to speak in the corridors."
Turkey: Wary on Gaza, Iran!
It's been an interesting couple of weeks for the western world's relationship with Turkey, and as this report suggests, there's hope in Turkey for a bilateral meeting with the U.S. administration at the G20 to iron out some disagreements:
" 'There is no scheduled meeting yet,' diplomatic sources told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday. But if a meeting is arranged between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Barack Obama on the sidelines in Toronto, then Iran's nuclear issue, Israel's deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and the struggle against terror will be atop the Turkish side's agenda.
" 'The issue of Turkey's struggle with the PKK can be raised during the talks within the scope of northern Iraq, where the terrorist organization has bases,' sources said. Recognizing the PKK as a 'common enemy,' Washington signaled they are ready for new requests from the Turkish government."
United Kingdom: Cameron!
The British press was replete of quotes from their new Prime Minister, David Cameron, as he made his maiden foray into the international conference circuit. The Daily Mail was full of pictures of his gripping and grinning.
They are also World Cup obsessed:
"Asked if he and Merkel would watch England play Germany on Sunday, Britain's Cameron said: 'There is an idea we might try and watch it together. I will try not to wrestle her to the ground during penalties, but we will have to see.' "
The Guardian had some muted grumbling about Stephen Harper's priorities, and concern over a double-dip recession:
"The Canadian prime minister, Steve Harper, said that he welcomed Cameron's responsible and difficult decisions, saying the British prime minister's budget 'had raised the very fiscal consolidation agenda that we are trying to steer the G20 towards'.
"Canada wants the G20 to endorse the idea that national deficits should be halved by 2013."
The BBC thinks the bank tax imbroglio is really just a reheat of the last big economic summit:
"In many ways, the argument over the right way to support the global recovery here at the G20 summit in Toronto is the mirror image of the debate at the London Summit last year.
"Back then the argument was that governments needed to act together to prevent another Great Depression. Now the worry is that they will hurt the recovery if they withdraw that support all at the same time.
"The hard truth about today's situation may be that there is no perfect mix of policies that can guarantee a strong recovery after a financial crisis this severe, and a run-up in sovereign borrowing this large.
"Put it another way: we could be damned if governments do cut borrowing rapidly - with the global economy still fragile - but we could also be damned if they don't."
United States: Stimulus!
In the U.S. the Washington Post admitted Obama's desire to keep the stimulus dollars flowing to avoid a double-dip recession was facing an uphill battle. Hard to imagine he'll be too successful when he's being defeated at home on this issue:
"Facing a difficult midterm election season, Congress has approved only about a quarter of the $266 billion in "temporary recovery measures" that the president asked for in his February budget request."
In the New York Times, Mr. Obama called on the other G20 leaders to maintain the unity they showed in summit meetings in London and Pittsburgh last year.
" 'We need to act in concert for a simple reason: This crisis proved, and events continue to affirm, that our national economies are inextricably linked,' Mr. Obama said on the White House lawn before leaving for Toronto.
"But Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, called the choice between stimulus spending and deficit reduction 'a false dilemma,' saying that both were necessary."
And on the Grip and Grin front:
From the same New York Times piece:
"Naoto Kan, the new prime minister of Japan, encountered Mr. Obama for the first time since assuming the position, as did Mr. Cameron, Britain's new leader.
"Mr. Obama was scheduled to have at least six one-on-one meetings with world leaders during his stay in Canada.
"But except for Mr. Cameron, all of the confirmed bilateral meetings were with Asian leaders, in a reflection of Asia's role in leading the global economic recovery."
You may have noticed a lot of the other international publications were keen to get face time with Obama. He may not be the host but it is apparently his summit.