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Syria weighs on economic focus of G-20 summit

Heads of the G20 leading economies take their positions after arriving for the family photo of the G20 summit, at the convention center in Los Cabos, Mexico, on June 18, 2012.

Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies meet in St. Petersburg today, scheduled to talk about tax evasion, interest rates, and regional trade agreements. But political tensions over Syria could affect the tenor of the summit.

With Russia, China, and even Britain opposed to a possible U.S. strike in Syria, it’s not an easy time for President Obama to push U.S. interests, but it’s not the first time that politics have accompanied economic discussions at the G-20.

“When we had the Arab Spring, the financial crisis did not take a back seat to it,” says Lida Preyma, a researcher with the G-20 Research Group at the University of Toronto. “Vladimir Putin is quite adamant on his stance about Syria, and he’s also  quite adamant about the agenda he’s set for the G-20 itself. For him, global growth is the number one issue.”

According to Douglas Rediker*, a visiting fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the most important economic discussions may have already taken place—without heads of state. “I think most of the technical economic issues are largely agreed to at the level of the finance ministers,” he says. "So in that regard Syria is not going to be a dominant or even a sub-issue." 
 
But with the spirit of compromise weakened among heads of state, Rediker says, don’t expect any sweeping new initiatives.


*CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly spelled economist Douglas Rediker's name. The text has been corrected.

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