In September 2008 during his presidential campaign and in the midst of the financial crisis, then-Senator Barack Obama identified the G-20 as a critical forum for economic policy cooperation and called on it to coordinate an international response to the crisis. In his words,
“[the American response] should be part of a globally coordinated effort with our partners in the G-20. This is a worldwide issue, and while the United States can and will lead in stabilizing the credit markets, we should ask other nations, who share in this crisis, to be part of the solution as well.”Then-Senator Barack Obama, 2008
Within months of taking office, in April 2009, the President joined the second-ever summit meeting of the G-20 Leaders. Members committed to an aggressive policy response aimed at restoring growth and jobs, strengthening global financial oversight, and resisting protectionism. They mobilized trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus and billions to the IMF and other Multilateral Development Banks. They created a Financial Stability Board and pledged to reshape national institutions, thereby supporting international authorities in their efforts to oversee domestic financial markets. They agreed to refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies and to take actions against tax havens. And now, as the President embarks for the final G-20 meeting of his presidency, both the U.S. and global economies are substantially stronger than they were almost 8 years ago—although more work remains to be done.
At the time of President Obama’s first G-20 Leaders’ Summit in April 2009, U.S. businesses were cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, the U.S. economy had been in recession for over a year, and the unemployment rate had risen to 9 percent on its way to a peak of 10 percent. The global economy was shrinking for the first time in half a century as the world dealt with a financial crisis and its aftershocks. By some measures, the global economy was on a worse trajectory than was observed in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression. Industrial production was contracting sharply, global trade slowing even faster than at the start of the Depression, and millions of workers were suddenly without jobs.