I know this isn't nearly as important as Obama giving the Queen an iPod as a gift, but I thought it was kind of interesting.

The New York Times

LONDON — In his debut on the international stage, President Obama presented himself as the leader of an America that can no longer go it alone, and as abiding by the protocol of a global new deal.
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World Leaders Pledge $1.1 Trillion for Crisis (April 3, 2009)

Room for Debate: The Art of Persuasion at the G-20 Summit (April 1, 2009)

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After the meeting Mr. Obama held a news conference, inviting questions from Indian and Chinese journalists. Many reporters stood up and cheered afterward.

It was a performance that ranged from mediating behind closed doors — Mr. Obama personally intervened in a spat between the French and Chinese leaders — to a carefully calculated news conference in which he reached deep into history, showed contrition for the failings of Wall Street, and forecast a road the world could no longer travel. Gone are the days, from Pax Britannica to Pax Americana, when Britain and the United States made the rules that others followed.

“If there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s an easier negotiation,” Mr. Obama said during his hourlong meeting with the international news media, during which he called on reporters from India and China to ask him questions. “But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.”

After more than 11 hours of meetings, Mr. Obama emerged Thursday from his first summit meeting with a handful of modest concrete commitments. He did not get much of what American officials had been hoping for, notably failing to persuade other countries to commit to more fiscal stimulus spending.

But he, along with the other world leaders present, did get a more forceful and detailed blueprint for a global recovery than a similar gathering 86 years ago, when an earlier generation failed to take collective action to counter the Great Depression. “By being willing to accommodate European leaders on the need for better regulation of financial markets and emerging market leaders on their desire to have less protectionism,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a former China division chief at the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Obama “has certainly guided the G-20 leaders to a positive outcome.”

“All in all, not a bad day’s work,” Mr. Prasad added.

Mr. Obama’s own assessment? “Well, I think I did O.K.,” he said, when asked by a reporter during a news conference to rate his performance.
In a premiere diplomatic tour that has already been scrutinized for every blemish, Mr. Obama has, thus far, gotten some not-so-good reviews — several European news outlets complained that he seemed aloof — and some raves. (President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called him “very helpful.”)
Mr. Sarkozy was referring to Mr. Obama the mediator. For a tense hour on Thursday, Mr. Sarkozy and President Hu Jintao of China were going back and forth about tax havens. In a large conference room at the Excel Center, surrounded by 18 other world leaders, the two men sniped at each other, according to officials in the room.

Mr. Sarkozy wanted the big communiqué produced by the Group of 20 to endorse naming and shaming global tax havens, maybe even including Hong Kong and Macao, which are under China’s sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hu was having none of it. He appeared angry that Mr. Sarkozy was effectively accusing China of lax regulation, and that the French leader was asking China to endorse sanctions issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of wealthy nations that Beijing has yet to join.

According to accounts provided by White House officials and corroborated by European and other officials also in the room, Mr. Obama escorted both men, one at a time, to a corner of the room, to judge the dispute. How about replacing the word “recognize,” Mr. Obama suggested, with the word “note?”

The result: “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the final communiqué said. “We note that the O.E.C.D. has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information.” Hong Kong and Macao did not appear on the list.

It was not a Middle East peace accord. But Mr. Obama had his first moment as a statesman.

For the news conference that followed, Mr. Obama took pains to project a cheerful, humble image to a world still alternately enraged and befuddled by a financial crisis that originated with American subprime loans. He called on reporters from other countries — “foreign,” he said, before adding with a grin that they were foreign only to him. He bantered, dispensing with his propensity to filibuster and lecture.

Answering a question from a reporter from China, Mr. Obama managed to acknowledge that he had to care most about how American workers and companies were affected by globalization, while still making the argument for why globalization was in America’s best interest.

“Look, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the president of China,” Mr. Obama said. Then he added, “It is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate, is tied up with the larger world.”

Mr. Obama said that if America neglected or abandoned poor countries, “not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us.”

“Unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who’s going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda.”

In a rare show of emotion from the international press, many in the room stood up and cheered after Mr. Obama was done.

If Mr. Obama gauged that crowd just right, he also had a few gaffes. The Obamas gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod loaded with songs and videos — this after weeks of grief from the British press over the 25 DVDs that the couple gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain when he visited Washington. (The Browns gave the Obamas an ornate penholder made from the timber of a Victorian antislave ship.)

And Michelle Obama, during the meeting with the queen, touched her, raising already high-brows over on this side of the pond. Buckingham Palace protocol says that commoners must not touch the queen, a dictate that foreign leaders in the past have ignored at their own peril. When Prime Minister Paul Keating of Australia did the same thing back in 1992 the newspapers here called him the “Lizard of Oz.”

But so high is the adulation that has been heaped on the Obamas from the normally caustic British press since their arrival that newspapers here said it was a sign of how well Mrs. Obama got along with the queen. In Mrs. Obama’s defense, the queen did touch her first, putting her arm around her as the two looked down at their feet, presumably talking about shoes.

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- They may have frustrated his plans for boosting global stimulus spending, but both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were careful to praise President Barack Obama's role in Thursday's economic summit.

Both credited the new U.S. president with helping to break a banking-secrecy logjam over tax havens and the release of a blacklist of non-compliant jurisdictions.

Group of 20 leaders highlighted the release as one of the major accomplishments of the London meeting, and they promised unspecified sanctions would be taken against tax havens that did not agree to share tax information.

"President Obama really found the consensus," Sarkozy told reporters after the meeting. "He didn't focus exclusively on stimulus ... In fact it was he who managed to help me persuade [Chinese] President Hu Jintao to agree to the reference to the ... publication of a list of tax havens, and I wish to thank him for that."

In her news conference, Merkel noted that "the American president also put his hand into this."

The warm words followed weeks of sharp divisions between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, on one side, and France and Germany on the other, over whether to increase government spending to help kick start the global economy.

French and German reluctance ultimately prevailed, and the summit produced only limited promises to do "whatever is necessary," in terms of fiscal stimulus.

Release of the tax haven list is expected to help pressure those nations to cooperate with other nations' tax authorities.

Tom Bemis is assistant managing editor and commentary editor of MarketWatch in London.
Obama Corners Hu, Sarkozy to Break Tax-Haven Deadlock at G-20 - Bloomberg.com

By Robert Hutton and Kristin Jensen

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- As Group of 20 negotiations on a new regulatory blueprint bogged down, President Barack Obama pulled French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao into a corner of a room in London’s Excel Center.
Obama was seeking to bridge differences between Sarkozy, who wanted to publish a list of tax havens from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Chinese, who opposed it. Obama’s chat with Sarkozy produced a proposal for Hu, who considered it, a U.S. official said.

Obama called Hu over, eventually pulling Sarkozy back in and arriving on a compromise: The G-20 would promise action against tax havens, note the OECD list and go no further.

“Tax havens were the subject of frank debate right up until a few minutes ago,” Sarkozy told reporters yesterday after the meeting ended. “We ended up doing a three-way meeting. Obama was very helpful to me.” So ended a gathering at times more notable for discord than for agreements.

Two days before the meeting began, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Sarkozy was prepared to walk out unless the summit adopted strict international finance regulations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she was worried the G-20 might try to “suppress the problems and paint things in a brighter light than they are.”

The day before yesterday’s formal meeting, Sarkozy and Merkel held a press conference to step up calls for tighter regulations and told reporters the leaders weren’t yet close to an agreement. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso criticized Germany’s unwillingness to boost spending.

Friendly Soiree

The event had been organized with the trappings of a friendly soiree. Most of the G-20 leaders, whose countries account for 85 percent of the global economy, first came together on the evening of April 1 at Buckingham Palace for a cocktail party hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Conversations and negotiations continued over dinner that night at 10 Downing Street, the residence of U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The meal included fresh organic farmed salmon and shoulder of lamb prepared by U.K. chef Jamie Oliver and eight young helpers.

Canary Wharf

For the main meeting, the group repaired to East London’s barn-like Excel Center, within sight of the Canary Wharf, home to offices for Barclays Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc and two major recipients of U.S. financial-rescue dollars: Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc.’s Citibank. After a 90-minute breakfast, the group spent the morning in a windowless secure room known as the “red zone,” taking breaks for private chats on mint-green seats in a separate lounge, a U.K. official said.

Some of the officials taking part in the meeting were happy with less lofty settings. U.K. Business Secretary Peter Mandelson opted to eat in the media canteen. When asked, “How do you feel being at the fulcrum of history?” Mandelson replied, “The soup’s nice.”

During the official meeting, the leaders wore microphones and got simultaneous translations for the 13 languages spoken. When one wanted to say something, he or she pressed a button, set off a light and waited for Brown to grant a turn to comment. Computer screens displayed a constantly updated version of the draft communiqué.

Talks Over Brandy

The high-tech setting was a far cry from international summits of the past, like the 1944 Bretton Woods economic conference, as Obama pointed out to reporters after the meeting. It was an easier negotiation when it was “just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy,” Obama said to laughter.

The group later opted to stay put in the dining room after a lunch of asparagus, Hereford beef fillet and lemon mousse so as not to break up the discussion, a U.K. official said. It was in that room that Obama, the leader of the world’s largest economy, went to work on Sarkozy and Hu.
The last issue of disagreement was the tax havens, contributing to what Sarkozy described as a “tense” situation as the meeting eventually ran half an hour late. The Chinese, who aren’t members of the OECD and have the fastest-growing major economy, objected to any form of words in the final communiqué endorsing the list. For Sarkozy and others, the issue is critical as they struggle to bring more funds into their government treasuries, because a list might encourage compliance.

Obama, 47, first signaled to Sarkozy, 54, that the two should speak in private. According to the U.S. official, they went into a corner of the room with their translators and Obama suggested a range of possible options. He then sent a proposal to Hu, 66.

Possible Deal

After Hu had mulled the offer, Obama took him into the same corner where he had spoken to Sarkozy. According to the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Obama sensed a possible deal and summoned Sarkozy. The three huddled with their “sherpas,” the officials who help prepare for summits, and their translators.

Hu and Sarkozy shook hands, agreeing that the G-20 would “note” the OECD list without endorsing it. The room erupted in applause when the final text won agreement.

Brown, 58, then asked Obama to make a closing statement to the meeting, and the U.S. president emphasized the “historic” nature of the assembly.
In the end, the group had produced a blueprint for reining in the excesses that fed the worst financial crisis in six decades and pledged more than $1 trillion in emergency aid to cushion the economic fallout.

Hedge Funds

The leaders called for stricter limits on hedge funds, executive pay, credit-rating companies and risk-taking by banks. They also boosted the resources of the International Monetary Fund and offered cash to revive trade to help governments weather the economic and social turmoil.

They sidestepped the question of whether to deliver more fiscal stimulus in their own economies and agreed to meet again before the end of the year.
Merkel, 54, who supported Sarkozy’s stance on tax havens, called the agreement a “victory for common sense.” Obama, she said, had been “especially concerned that we get good results” and “was involved in solutions to very specific problems.”

The U.K. delegation also seemed impressed with Obama, because most of Brown’s team made their way into the room where he was talking to listen to him.

Obama said he had come to the G-20 intending to listen, learn, show some humility and help encourage the “best answer.”

“I think we did OK,” Obama said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net; Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net
G-20 to give $1 trillion to IMF, World Bank - Los Angeles Times

(includes video)

With a larger accord hung up as France and China squabble over a detail, President Obama talks privately with each side, then both -- and a deal is struck.

By Christi Parsons
April 3, 2009

Reporting from London -- They had shared three meals and a full day around a conference table. The last obstacle to a deal Thursday among world leaders at their economic summit was the contents of a single pair of parentheses.

Debate wore on for an hour as the French and Chinese leaders disagreed over a small detail about how to crack down on tax havens.

Economic crisis dominates summit

Then President Obama pushed back his chair and walked around the table, inviting first France's Nicolas Sarkozy and then China's Hu Jintao into a corner for a series of chats. The three ended up shaking hands. Soon after, the meeting gaveled to a close.

For anyone looking for clues in Obama's first appearance as president on the world stage about his view of his role, it was an illustrative moment.

"It reminded me of what you do when you're a legislator," said one senior Obama administration official who saw the scene unfold. "You pull two people into the cloakroom and you all work it out together."

A few hours later, Obama talked at length with reporters about how he intends to deal with the rest of the world, "forging a consensus instead of dictating our terms," and working cooperatively with other countries. In contrast with his predecessor, Obama spoke of a complex, changing world of growing nations.

"If it's just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, you know, that's an easier negotiation," Obama said. "But that's not the world we live in. And it shouldn't be the world we live in."

Today's world, he acknowledged, is one of rising powers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

"These are all countries on the move," he said. "And that's good. That means there are millions of people, billions of people, who are working their way out of poverty. And over time, that potentially makes this a much more peaceful world."

Nonetheless, Obama said, the United States retains a role as leader.

"I do not buy into the notion that America can't lead in the world," he said. "I just think, in a world that is as complex as it is, that it is very important for us to be able to forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions."

Before voicing that viewpoint, though, he acted out some of it in the private meeting with other G-20 leaders at London's Excel Center, the sprawling arena where the summit took place.

The sticking point was whether to officially recognize a list of tax havens being published by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development as part of an attempt to crack down on those trying to escape taxes.

The U.S. did not have a strong position on the question.

But Sarkozy insisted on recognizing the list. Hu opposed it, reasoning that G-20 members would have no role in formulating it.

Experts say it's the kind of small dispute that holds up international agreements all the time.

"There was a great deal of back and forth," the Obama administration official said, speaking about the private meeting on condition of anonymity.

Finally, Obama proposed that, rather than "recognizing" the list, G-20 leaders simply "note" it.

In the language of diplomacy, "noting" the existence of the list may carry less weight than "recognizing" it.

Obama tapped Sarkozy on the shoulder. The two presidents huddled with their economic advisors and interpreters.

When Sarkozy concurred, Obama invited Hu to the corner and asked what he thought.

Within an hour, the other participants looked over to see Obama, Sarkozy and Hu sealing the agreement with handshakes.

The idea that the larger G-20 agreement could be held up by such a small matter is not as odd as it may seem, said Steven Schrage, a Bush administration official who oversaw anti-crime and -terrorism efforts for the Group of 8 nations.

"That sort of thing happens all the time on language like that," Schrage said. " 'Recognizing' the list means something different from 'noting' it, and that can matter a great deal to an individual leader."

All week, White House staffers said that Obama's first European trip as president was about "listening and not lecturing." Elaborating, Obama said, "We exercise our leadership best when we are listening, when we recognize that the world is a complicated place and that we are going to have to act in partnership with other countries, when we lead by example, when we show some element of humility and recognize that we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer and support the best answer."