If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, this weekend was probably a good first one. Albeit reluctantly, the U.S. convened a special meeting of the 20 most economically important nations in D.C. this weekend, which was described as the “Platitude Summit.” The nine-page closing press release contained a pledge of closer cooperation, to meet again, and . . . “never again.” However, the important meetings were in the hallways, where creditor nations must have posed interesting hypothetical deals to Obama’s two representatives who are attending. There will be no press release of those discussions, but it is no coincidence that Obama sent a former Secretary of State instead of a former Treasury Secretary. (I hope it was a good omen that he sent both a Republican and a Democrat as his direct representatives, but we’ll see.)
Also, the concept of a “College of Supervisors,” consisting of the G-20 finance ministers, is interesting, but it will need broad investigative powers, if not regulatory powers. The U.S. opposes giving it regulatory power, but Europe is strongly in favor of that. One good thing to come out of this meeting was a real push for uniform accounting standards, which would be a giant step toward transparency.