The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G-20 or Group of 20) are holding their summit at Toronto, to discuss international financial and economic issues. These are the real movers and shakers of the world economy.
Obama treks to G-20 amid warnings of millions of global job losses
By Howard Schneider and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
TORONTO -- President Obama trekked to a secluded northern Ontario resort Friday for a meeting with the heads of the world's major industrialized nations -- a narrow gathering that reflects the common politics still shared by the Western powers and Japan despite a quickly diversifying global economy.
Obama joined the other leaders for a round of summit meetings amid warnings that their failure to cooperate on core financial and economic issues could cost the world tens of millions of jobs.
As he departed for Canada on Friday, Obama told reporters on the White House South Lawn that he hoped to build on the progress of the two previous Group of 20 conclaves he has attended "by coordinating our efforts to promote economic growth, to pursue financial reform and to strengthen the global economy" in the wake of the financial crisis.
"This crisis proved, and events continue to affirm, that our national economies are inextricably linked," Obama said. "And just as economic turmoil in one place can quickly spread to another, safeguards in each of our nations can help protect all nations."
Saying he was "gratified" by progress toward enacting financial reform in the United States, Obama added that at this weekend's G-20 summit, "I'll work with other nations not only to coordinate our financial reform efforts, but to promote global economic growth while ensuring that each nation can pursue a path that is sustainable for its own public finances."
Preceding the G-20 gathering in Toronto, leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations gathered Friday in Muskoka, Canada. Represented in the group are the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and Canada.
The agenda for the one-day lakeside G-8 meeting was a broad one ranging from global economics to maternal health and the recent tension on the Korean peninsula.
The session will "refocus the G-8 on its core strengths and where it can make a difference," particularly on development and security, said Dmitri Soudas, a spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The G-8 session reflects the rough division of labor emerging between the world's traditional economic powers and the broader G-20 meeting in Toronto this weekend, a gathering that includes major emerging powers such as China and Brazil.
Although the G-20 is now the main forum for economic issues, it has not become as involved in either development issues or some of the more sensitive political questions addressed by the G-8.
Canada, for example, is using the session to push for a major new commitment by the developed world to fund infant mortality and maternal health programs in less-developed countries.
Kazuo Kodama, a spokesman for the Japanese government, said he expected the group to discuss a range of security issues as well, including the sinking in March of a South Korean naval ship. An international investigation concluded that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, raising tensions between South Korea and its reclusive communist neighbor.
But the G-8 will also meet with an African delegation to discuss development issues, and Kodama said he expects the group to make renewed pledges on improving infant mortality and maternal health. Those issues are part of the Millennium Development Goals, but "progress has been lagging," Kodama said.
Economic issues will also be prominent in the group's discussions, as the countries try to resolve a dilemma many of them face: the need to cut public spending while at the same time ensuring continued growth.
Branigin reported from Washington.