For the third time in less than a year, international leaders will gather to discuss the global economic crisis. Leaders of the world's 20 most influential economies met in Washington and London as they charted a joint strategy for confronting the global downturn. This time, they'll meet later this week in the reborn former steel town of Pittsburgh and get a progress report.
What are the leaders likely to hear?
That most of their economies are on the mend - and trade tensions and protectionism are on the rise.
What are the main problems?
Implementing already agreed upon measures to bolster the world economy is likely to dominate talks. It has been hard to live up to the lofty fair-trade pledges leaders made. Also, participants are arguing over proposed limits on bankers' compensation, how far to go with international financial regulation, which stimulus efforts to rein in and when, and alarming recession-fueled budget deficits, especially in the United States. How to pay for tackling climate change and giving developing countries a bigger role in the International Monetary Fund and other global bodies are ongoing issues.
Why would nations be backing off pledges, like reducing trade restrictions?
As economies escape the grips of recession, the pressure to work together is lessening. National self-interest is reasserting itself. That includes a desire to protect battered home industries from overseas competition as governments look toward dialing back stimulus measures such as extra government spending and low interest rates. Some European countries - particularly Germany, which holds elections this month - are not keen to keep up high levels of spending.
What's wrong with that, if things are improving?
Economists say pulling together is extremely important now to keep still-fragile recoveries from being derailed. Trade warfare of the 1930s is widely blamed for prolonging and expanding the Great Depression. If stimulus efforts end too soon, economists say, the world could slip back into recession. If stimulus spending goes on too long, it runs up national debts and heightens the risk of inflation.
What about protests?
There will be protesters, as always, from a variety of groups, including antiwar and climate change, as well as social and economic reform. The city plans to house thousands of protesters in a parking lot neardowntown, the closest sanctioned site to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center where the two-day summit is being held.
What is President Obama likely to tell the other leaders?
Mike Froman, a White House adviser on international economics, said Obama would emphasize that governments should make plans for winding down stimulus measures but it is still "too early to execute on those exit strategies." Finance ministers meeting in London two weeks ago pledged to maintain stimulus measures - for now. Froman said Obama does not favor a hard cap on bonuses, despite lashing out at executives of finance firms during a speech on Wall Street. As for trade, Obama has pledged to avoid "self-defeating protectionism" to get world economies back on their feet. But he also told the Wall Street audience Sept. 14, "no trading system will work if we fail to enforce our trade agreements."
And who are the G-20?
The group includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkeyand the United States. The European Union, represented by its rotating presidency and the European Central Bank, is the 20th member.
Sources: Associated Press, Washington Post, Voice of America, Financial Times