RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
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And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
Some of the world's economic leaders promised a collective effort toward economic recovery last spring. Now they gather again to talk about how they're doing.
MONTAGNE: President Obama and other leaders are in Italy attending a summit of the Group of Eight, the seven major Western nations plus Russia. Last April, they were part of a bigger economic gathering and made big economic promises.
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports on how they're keeping the promises made in Britain three months ago.
TOM GJELTEN: In London, everyone promised to keep markets open and avoid protectionism. The U.S. and Japan pushed for internationally coordinated spending programs to stimulate the global economy. The Europeans wanted more international regulation to limit the risky investments that nearly wrecked world financial markets. Now it's time for an update. Are the commitments being kept? Fred Bergsten directs the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Dr. FRED BERGSTEN (Director, Peterson Institute for International Economics): On whole, the outcome has been good. More is going to be needed, particularly to prevent future crisis, but I think the world's countries get at least a strong B to date.
GJELTEN: That's a pretty good grade, considering how much bickering there's been among G-8 governments. The World Trade Organization says protectionism is actually growing. European leaders are still pushing for more regulatory reform. Officials in Washington complain the Europeans aren't doing their share of stimulus spending. The United States does seem to be making more progress toward economic recovery. But Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, says the Europeans worry more about building up government debt.
Professor KENNETH ROGOFF (Economics, Harvard University; Former Chief Economist, IMF): I mean, these financial recessions are not your typical recession that just lasts for six to nine months. These are three-to-four-year events. You kind of have to have a longer run vision.
GJELTEN: As for those G-8 leaders who have been pushing for more economic regulation - German Chancellor Angela Merkel being the best example - they've been a bit disappointed that governments are so far just enacting reforms on their own without much international coordination. But Fred Bergsten says it's unrealistic to expect much in the way of new international economic rules on market activity or trade, because the rules couldn't be enforced.
Dr. BERGSTEN: What you try to do is set out international best practices that everybody can agree upon, and then you name and shame those who do not shape up.
GJELTEN: Bergsten points out that when the U.S. Congress initially proposed a buy America provision in its stimulus package, other governments protested and President Obama got it scaled back. Ditto in France, where President Sarkozy was shamed by his European neighbors into limiting his rescue of the French auto industry.
One area where governments are sure to be shamed this week is on their commitment to Africa. In 2005, the G-8 countries promised to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion by 2010. That's just a year away, and the goal is not being met.
Mr. TOM HART (Government Relations Director, ONE): We're very disappointed, particularly with countries that have promised a lot and delivered very little.
GJELTEN: Tom Hart is government relations director for the global advocacy organization called ONE. He says that while some countries, including the United States, are close to meeting their Africa aid commitments, others are not. Italy, the G-8 host, has so far come through on just three percent of what it promised.
Mr. HART: We think that these promises were made in good faith, and I have to say there is something very baseline about making a commitment to the most vulnerable people on the planet and then not delivering on them.
GJELTEN: Aid for Africa will be the main summit topic on Friday. The G-8 leaders will also work on a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There could be discussion about reviving world trade talks and even about the role of the U.S. dollar in the global economy. New sanctions on Iran could be considered in the aftermath of the disputed election results.
Kenneth Rogoff, now a Harvard Economics Professor, says the G-8 meeting is shaping up as one of the most interesting ever.
Prof. ROGOFF: I think it's an extraordinary historical moment that might have greater significance than the usual G-8 meeting.
GJELTEN: Actually, it's not just the G-8. Delegations from more than a dozen other countries will be on hand to join in the consultations. Notably absent, however, will be Chinese President Hu Jintao. After flying to Italy for the summit, he then turned around and headed home to deal with the current unrest in his country.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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