Via Meadia has long viewed the G-20 as one of the most useless international talking shops, and the recent meeting in Los Cabos certainly fit the bill. But while it is useless from a pragmatic political perspective, it does serve one important function: an opportunity for world leaders and politicians to look important, be photographed together and score points with the public watching at home.As expected, there was plenty of showing off for the public in Los Cabos. Although the majority of the meeting was dominated by discussion of economics and the euro crisis, British PM David Cameron and Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner provided a break from the usual programming by trading barbs over the Falkland Islands. As the FT reports:
The G20 meeting in Los Cabos has been punctuated by Anglo-Argentine feuding, which started on Monday when Mr Cameron accused Buenos Aires of being the worst offender in resorting to protectionism.
The two leaders found themselves agreeing on the need for central banks to pump liquidity in the global economy, but the detente lasted only as long as it took Ms Fernández to formally resubmit Argentina’s claim to the Falklands, which Argentines call Las Malvinas.British officials said Ms Fernández’s aides had filmed her attempting to pass the envelope, an episode described by Downing St aides as a “media stunt”. However Mr Cameron has as much to gain as the Argentine leader.
Cameron and Fernandez are like the odd couple: they fight endlessly, but in another sense they need each other. Or they each benefit from having the other as a foil. As long as it doesn’t lead to actual armed conflict, the endless sniping over the Falklands Islands is a useful distraction for both leaders from bad news on the home front. Fernandez would prefer that Argentinians not think about their cratering economy and plummeting currency, while Cameron would prefer that the British pay less attention to an economy that remains stubbornly stagnant despite numerous attempts to get it going. For both leaders, the Falklands provide a convenient excuse to wrap themselves in the flag, which has a tendency to dispel criticism on the home front—at least for a time.As long as this remains the case, expect these spats to continue to come up at international talks where the two leaders appear together. Fortunately, in the absence of serious business, it doesn’t matter if summits degenerate into sideshows.