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Walking with Giants

PARISIn the aftermath of the G20 Pittsburgh Summit last year, European and American officials insisted that G20 membership was imposing “new responsibilities.” They invited policymakers from the emerging giants to become more involved in designing a new global economic framework – implicitly suggesting that this has not been the case so far.

Yet the evidence does not support this view. Brazil, China, India, Korea, and Mexico had already been playing a decisive role in two major areas – the global trade regime and the management of the worldwide economic crisis; the jury is still out on a third – climate change.

Few people appear to realize the fundamental contribution of the emerging economies to the success of the current global trade regime. During the last three decades, the amazing success of China’s trade liberalization has done much more to convince other developing countries of the gains from trade than all the OECD countries’ exhortations.

Similarly, among World Trade Organization members, China has made the deepest commitment to liberalization of services, India has raised the issue of wider services liberalization, and Brazil has been decisive in cracking American and European agricultural protection. During key WTO ministerial negotiations in July 2008, Brazil was the most pro-active negotiator. Those negotiations failure are generally attributed to India and the United States, but most observers seem to agree that America’s responsibility was greater.