G-20 Leaders Agree to a Deficit-Cutting Timetable

G-20 Summit in Toronto
G-20 Summit in Toronto

Putting a united face on a divisive issue -- whether and by how much G-20 nations need to cut their government budget deficits -- the leaders meeting in Toronto agreed on Sunday to a schedule for reducing their budget gaps. The agreement doesn't entail hard deadlines. Rather, it sets up as a goal that the nations will cut their deficits in half by 2013. The timetable notably gave Japan wiggle room to meet the goal on its own terms.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who spearheaded the proposal, told the BBC: "All leaders recognise that fiscal consolidation is not an end in itself. There will be a continued role for ongoing stimulus in the short term as we develop the framework for strong sustainable and balanced growth." That reference to stimulus is a nod to President Barack Obama's insistence that the G-20 move cautiously on removing stimulatory spending policies in order to avoid triggering a second global economic slide.

In a post-meeting press conference, Obama said, "We must do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the recent financial crisis." The weekend summit was greeted in Toronto by perhaps the most violent protests in the city's history.