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World Leaders Lay Out Five Principles Of Reform

NPR's John Ydstie Talks About The Meeting On 'Weekend All Things Considered'

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Leaders of the Group of 20 meet for a financial summit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Eugene Salazar/AP/IMF hide caption

toggle caption Eugene Salazar/AP/IMF

Leaders of the Group of 20 meet for a financial summit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

Eugene Salazar/AP/IMF

Statement From The G-20

Read the declaration from the financial summit.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (right) speaks at a press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso after the summit. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (right) speaks at a press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso after the summit.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

With only a few weeks to prepare, leaders from the world's 19 largest economies and the European Union agreed Saturday on broad principles at an economic summit in Washington, D.C.

The principles eventually will lead to actions designed to prevent future economic crises like the one currently plaguing countries around the world.

Speaking after the meeting, President Bush called the agreement "an important first step."

The general principles included in the G-20's declaration include strengthening transparency and accountability in financial systems; enhancing regulation; increasing international cooperation between the countries' financial regulators; and expanding the scope of international financial institutions to include emerging economies.

The G-20 declaration also committed to free-market principles. "We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward in times of financial uncertainty," it said.

"Our nations agree that we must make the markets, the financial markets more transparent and accountable," Bush said. He added that he believes the best way out of this crisis is through economic growth.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the talks difficult, but said, "We have reached important conclusions today about trade, about financial stability and about the expansion of our economies."

The summit represented the biggest gathering of world leaders in a decade. Bush said the countries were brought together out of concern that they faced "a depression greater than the Great Depression."

Bush said details of reform plans and cooperation will be determined in coming months.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had high expectations for the summit. He had called for wholesale changes to Western-style capitalism and called for leaders to create a new international regulator to oversee global financial companies. But the U.S. and several developing countries rejected that idea.

Speaking after the summit, Sarkozy said he was heartened that leaders could come together on a plan for action, despite such diverse interests from individual nations.

"This is a historic, historic event," he said. "Not only in this case has Europe — the European states — agreed, but the entire world has agreed to be in step with one another — in synch and respond in a coordinated fashion to the economic and financial crisis."

In his speech before the other G-20 leaders, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said comparisons to past economic crises don't work. He said this is a 21st century and existing institutions that regulate the economy are not adequate for the challenges the world faces now. Medvedev also called for an international commission of "financial gurus" to advise world leaders.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was disappointed the summit members did not agree to require tougher rules on hedge funds.

"Our view is all significant pools of capital that are leveraged need to be subject to capitalization rules in particular," he said.

This was the first in a series of summits. The next will likely come in April, after Barack Obama takes office.

Summit participants also agreed to push for completion of the Doha round of global trade talks within the next year. This round of World Trade Organization negotiations started in 2001 and the goal was to lower trade barriers. But the talks have stalled because of disagreements between major developed and developing countries. The U.S. and the European Union also have fought over agriculture subsides.

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