Saturday, February 6, 2010

G-7 Takes Off to the Great White North

The Times reports:
Finance ministers from seven of the world’s biggest economies concluded a meeting in the Canadian Arctic on Saturday with pledges to maintain their fiscal stimulus programs, despite rising worries among investors about the mounting debts of some European governments.

“We are all absolutely committed to maintaining the support for our economies until we make sure that we have recovery established,” Alistair Darling, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer, said in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 7 nations were meeting.

Iqualit, Nunavut?? I'm sure its a lovely place, but...

Given the troubles of the world economy, and the backlash generated by the various financial rescues governments have undertaken, I suppose that "finance ministers and central bankers" are mostly an unpopular bunch these days (certainly Geithner and Bernanke are not loved in the US right now), but dispatching them to the arctic in February seems a bit harsh.

The real motivation for the location? Apparently Canada is marking its territory:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that apart from wanting to showcase the charms of Nunavut (Inuit for “Our Land”), Canada is sending a diplomatic message about a territory that may contain one-fifth of the world’s petroleum reserves.

“It’s one of our government’s priorities, the assertion of our sovereignty in the Arctic,” Flaherty said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made the Arctic a priority, pledging to increase Canada’s military presence in the Northwest Passage in case enough ice melts to make it a regular Atlantic-Pacific shipping lane. Canada says it owns the passage. The U.S. and others say it’s international territory.

Since Canada's banking system avoided crisis (as Paul Krugman explained recently), the finance minister felt entitled to serve up some trash talk:

Flaherty has said that the robust Canadian banking system does not need the fixes proposed by other countries.

"Canadians did not have to put taxpayers' money into our financial institutions. We did not have to bail them out," Flaherty said Jan. 27. "It is a rather different situation in other jurisdictions, like the U.S."

and a "summit-ending community feast with raw seal."

Someone will have to ask Tim Geithner if that was harder to swallow than the AIG bailout...

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