Barack Obama wanted the world to agree to continued stimulus. Angela Merkel was looking for fiscal austerity.
At the end of this weekend's big G-20 meeting in Toronto, both could claim they got what they wanted.
In the "declaration" issued at the meeting, the world's leaders:
1. Set deficit-reduction targets for 2013 and 2016, the distant future in political terms.
2. Did not create any enforcement mechanisms for countries that fail to meet the targets.
Specifically, the G-20 leaders agreed to halve budget deficits by 2013, a goal Obama has already laid out for the U.S. They also agreed to stabilize debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016.
Countries that fail to meet those goals face no consequences from the G-20.
The world's leaders also set a vague, long-term time frame for implementing new capital and liquidity requirements for banks. These are crucial rules that determine how much money banks hold in reserve as a safety cushion.
The declaration cites "the aim of implementation by end-2012" for the new rules. But it adds that "Phase-in arrangements will reflect different national starting points and circumstances ... ."