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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

September 21, 2009 at 10:05 AM

Slumber in Pittsburgh? What can the G-20 really hope to accomplish

Top of the News: Talk about strange days. With unemployment at highs not seen for at least a quarter century and economic insecurity for average Americans lower than at any point in our lifetimes, nobody is predicting a Battle in Pittsburgh. The G-20 leaders will likely face run-of-the-mill protests — one peaceful event Sunday involved 400 unemployed people.

The Battle in Seattle at the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 happened during the greatest boom since the end of World War II. For most of America, the violence and weirdness of what they witnessed on TV were a turn-off — even though many protesters carried important issues lost in the teargas. They were defeated, and the new world order has proceeded from there.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that G-20 members will be focused on a U.S. proposal for a new, new world order: America will save more, China will rely less on exports and Europe will improve business investment.

These attempts never work. The nations involved have differing, and sometimes conflicting, economic and geopolitical interests. China, in particular, refuses to seriously open markets to more American exports, play fair with the renminbi and protect intellectual property. Nor can the Chinese and Americans easily back out of their unsustainable debt-for-stuff relationship. The trade spat over tires and chickens barely grazes the surface of the trouble.

Northwest companies and farmers want to export more. The ports want more business. The big companies that have relationships around the world, particularly with China, don’t want to rock the boat. And no amount of jawboning can get around the sluggish rebound awaiting the rest of the world, despite China’s apparent revival. And the world has stepped back just far enough from last fall’s brink to encourage complacency.

Naptime in Pittsburgh?

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Dell buys up Perot

Remember the candidate?

Now he’s richer still

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