Davos Notebook

Davos and the never-ending Doha round

This year’s World Economic Forum offers not one but two meetings of trade ministers on the never-ending Doha round. Besides the traditional Saturday lunch hosted by Switzerland on Saturday, this year featuring 26 ministers plus WTO chief Pascal Lamy, the EU is holding a dinner on Friday for the G7 – that’s the trade G7: Australia, Brazil, China, EU, India, Japan and USA.

The meetings may attract some interest as this year is seeing a renewed push to conclude the Doha round, now in its 10th year, after leaders of the G20 (that’s the financial G20 not the trade G20) said 2011 was a window of opportunity.

For those who think this might join a long list of missed deadlines, I offer this story from Jean-Pierre Lehmanne, founder of

The Evian Group at the IMD business school in Lausanne:

Barack Obama has an appointment with God and asks Him, “when will the US deficit be reduced”. God replies, “Not in your lifetime”, and Obama begins to cry.

Angela Merkel meets with God and asks Him, “when will the Euro zone be sturdy”. God replies, “Not in your lifetime”, and Merkel begins to cry.

Groundhog Day in Davos

groundhog

The programme may strike a different  note — this year’s Davos is apparently all about Shared Norms for the New Reality — but much of the discussion at the 41st World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos this month will have a distinctly familiar ring to it.

Last January, the five-day talkfest in the Swiss Alps was dominated by Greece’s near-death experience at the hands of the bond market and recriminations over the role of bankers in the financial crisis, as well as worries about China’s rapid economic ascent and a lot of calls for a new trade deal.

Fast forward 12 months and not much has changed.

Ireland has joined Greece in the euro zone’s intensive care unit and Portugal and  Spain are getting round-the-clock monitoring. The annual round of bankers’ bonuses is once again stirring up trouble. China looms larger than ever on the global stage, after overtaking Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second-biggest economy. And trade ministers who signally failed to make headway last year say they really must get down to business when they meet on the sidelines of Davos this time round.

You’ve heard of the G20 – now get ready for the B20

Speaking today at the WEF meeting in Davos, HSBC Group chairman Stephen Green called for the setting up of a “Business 20″ – or B20 – forum comprised of the world’s largest companies, including those in the developing world, with a focus on those with international operations.

 

The body, which would mirror the G20 group of the world’s largest economies, would not be a lobby group but would provide a forum to “help inform policy and create more a stable global economy,” Green said. “It will be non-partisan. It will promote open markets. It will be the voice of sustainable business.”

 

Green added that the proposal has the support of the current chair of the G20, the UK government.