Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom hosted a panel on “The Implications of the G-20 Summit for the Political Sovereignty and Economic Freedom of the United States.” The panel, which was hosted by Dr. Ted R. Bromund and featured Dr. J.D. Foster (Heritage), Dr. Desmond Lachman (AEI), and Prof. Jeremy Rabkin (George Mason), was broadcast live by CSPAN. If you want a primer on the financial crisis and the Summit, you can watch the panel now, courtesy of CSPAN.
The run-up to the Summit itself is now being dominated by French President Sarkozy’s headline grabbing threat to walk out unless the G-20 agrees to support supranational regulation of the world’s financial markets. As a negotiating tactic, this is feeble: threatening to leave unless everyone does what you want will only encourage them to show you the door. As a result, Sarkozy’s spokesman is wobbling painfully between promising a walk-out and denying the existence of any threat.
Undoubtedly, Sarkozy, like a lot of other Europeans, would like more regulation, but like most French temper tantrums, this one has more to do with the politics of the EU than with the issues at stake. The essence of French policy, now as always, is not to be divided from Germany. When a German spokesman said on March 26 that there were “no points of contention here between us and the US government,” Sarkozy evidently decided he had to start making noisy demands for more regulation.
As today’s Wall Street Journal points out, the German spokesman was exaggerating: there are, in fact, still points of contention between the U.S. and Germany, centering around whether the Summit should endorse national or supranational regulation. By demanding supranational rules, Sarkozy is seeking to re-ingratiate himself with the Germans, and to ensure that Germany does not drift any closer to the U.S. The likely impact of this on the Summit itself is limited: if France could bully its way into the deal it wanted, it would already have done so.