Au revoir France, bienvenidos á México: What to expect from the G20 next year

French honor guards at the Palais des Festivals during the G20 summit in Cannes, France. Photo by: Evan Schneider / UN

The G-20 Summit in Cannes came to a close on Friday, and with it, the French presidency of the G-8 and G-20. Next May, the United States will host the G-8, and Mexico will chair the G-20 in June.

Six months between summits means that both governments will have precious little time to prepare in the lead-up. U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón are also both facing presidential elections in 2012, which lends an interesting political dynamic to the summits.

What’s likely to be on the agenda at the next meeting of the G-20 and G-8 leaders?

Calderon, in a press conference after the summit, announced what he expects to be his five G-20 priorities for 2012: recovering economic stability, international trade and the closing of the Doha Round in the context of rejecting protectionism, promoting international financial stability and involving the IMF in international crisis prevention, food security and the need to rein in food price speculation, and climate change and sustainable development. Calderon called climate “the most challenging issue in the second half of this century, more than the financial situation.”

Similar to French President Nicolas Sarkozy inviting Bill Gates to brief G-20 leaders, Calderón called for a special task force of experts, international multilateral organizations and willing G-20 leaders to present techical responses to the economic and enviromental crisis, and he has invited Bill Gates to continue to engage with the group.

Also likely to be on the agenda in Mexico is the development working group’s unfinished commitment from Seoul last year to make sure economic growth is inclusive. This year, G-20 leaders called for further work to establish social protection floors determined by each G-20 nation.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the United States has expressed a desire to work closely with the Mexican government, since the G-8 summit falls only a month before the G-20. Signs from the Obama administration are that food security will also be on the G-8 agenda. G-20 leaders made little progress on food security in Cannes, but the issue is likely to gain prominence at both summits next year. The Horn of Africa famine has given world leaders a taste of what high and volatile prices at a local level can mean to the most vulnerable.

What’s less clear from either is whether world leaders will attempt to tackle the root causes of food insecurity next year as they failed to do at Cannes, and provide direction on issues like curbing biofuels production, better managing food prices through food reserves, and limiting excessive speculation on food markets.

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