Mexico City 2012: 21st Century Council Meets President Felipe Calderon

Nathan Gardels

The 21st Century Council focused mainly on supporting the ongoing initiatives of the Group of 20 – structural economic reforms and improving the international financial architecture – as well as debating ways to strengthen the G20 itself. Meeting in Mexico City at the beginning of May, the council also discussed President Felipe Calderon’s signature issue for the Mexican G20 presidency — green growth – and met with the president to present the council’s recommendations, which were also the basis for a public statement. Meetings with two of the candidates hoping to replace Calderon, and presentations on “Is Democracy Self-Correcting?” and “Jobs, Trade and Technology,” rounded out the three-day meeting.

Agustin Carstens, Mexico’s central bank governor, spoke to the question of improving the international financial architecture, while WTO head Pascal Lamy gave a talk on the current trade situation. 

Raghuram Rajan spoke on domestic paths to global governance, deepening our discussion on a point raised by many members: that global governance needs to find ways to “go local” if international coordination is to blend successfully with national, regional and other non-global loyalties and networks. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christophe Nuttal both presented on regional and city-to-city networks, while Mario Molina gave an update on the climate change debate.

Paul Martin and Gordon Brown both spoke on the history and prospects of the G20 model, including the possibilities (such as a G20 secretariat) for improved G20 effectiveness. Ernesto Zedillo, who was prevented by last-minute weather shifts from attending, sent a paper on the subject, arguing for a limited macroeconomic mandate and closer G20 coordination with the IMF.

The economic crisis was a constant thread, particularly in the presentations by Larry Summers and Laura Tyson (on demand creation and employment) and Eric Schmidt (on technology), while Ping Chen emphasized that the era of “convergent growth” and U.S.-led globalization is over, to be replaced by “plural growth” and a “scope” rather than “scale” economy. 

Francis Fukuyama, George Yeo, and Eric Li staked out a range of position on democracy. While all saw roles for democratic government of different types and on different scales, none advocated a one-size-fits-all model.

The council met with two of the presidential candidates — Gabriel Quadri de la Torre and the eventual winner, Enrique Pena Nieto – and spent the final morning in a working breakfast with President Calderon at Los Pinos. 

The council’s first informal dinner was at the Four Seasons and focused on political change in the U.S. and China. Later dinners were graciously hosted by Manuel Arango and Carlos Slim.

The council is now preparing to send a delegation to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin and, separately, to meet in 2013 with the new leadership in China.