Farewell to the G20 Freeloaders

What exactly did the G20 meeting accomplish? This European junket was sold to Americans as this century's Yalta conference or Bretton-Woods agreement. Yet those of us with functioning frontal lobes knew exactly how it would turn out. Obama appeals to a shared sense of responsibility and asks the world for its support, and the response ranges from feeble support to even feebler criticism.

Every working group has its share of freeloaders, those coworkers-in-name-only who show up for the first meeting and then find plenty of excuses to avoid taking on new commitments or delivering on the few that they already have made. Asking freeloaders to help you solve problems is like asking arsonists to put out fires.

But the G20 should rename itself the F19, because virtually the entire group is made up of sponges. Let's take a page from the Obama administration and start naming and shaming.

China

Chairman Mao envisioned a workers' paradise in China, but his wretched economic stewardship condemned the country to decades of poverty, slavery, and even starvation. Now the country's economic prospects look far brighter and most expect it to lead the next century. The American assembly line has been shipped to China, a land where young workers clamor to earn two dollars an hour sewing our baseball gloves.

But throw away your unread copy of The World is Flat -- it's not globalization, free market economics, or international competitiveness that has sent the factories there, but an American economic policy of capitulation. We don't want to make products any more, or at least that's what one can deduce from our thicket of regulations, taxes, etc. However, we have no problem importing goods from anywhere, no matter what the local conditions.

And so the factories go to countries like China with little more to offer than cheap labor, minimal safety and environmental regulations, and some political stability. The politicians that wrote the laws that favor unregulated imports over heavily regulated domestic production may even blame Benedict Arnold CEOs for the job migration when election season comes, but they will still be sure to collect their campaign contributions.

But China's sin isn't selling us cheap products. It is that they then treat America's most valuable export as if it were free. For more than two decades China has been at the top of the list of nations stealing intellectual property. And this isn't just movies, music, and software. Chinese firms will copy everything from Wrigley chewing gum to Pfizer Viagra to GM auto parts and then sell them worldwide.

This rampant abuse was supposed to stop when China agreed to join to World Trade Organization in 1999, when China finally did join in late 2001, when the U.S. filed its official WTO complaint in 2005, and then when the Olympics put the nation in the international spotlight in 2008. Nonetheless it is as bad as ever.

China's excuse is that they are doing the best that they can, which is the same excuse they have for selling poisoned food and toys. Yet the government displays considerable competence when it comes to suppressing political speech that threatens its power. China is a freeloader.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia qualifies for G20 membership only because of its mammoth oil industry. Petroleum accounts for 50% of the nation's GDP, 75% of its budget revenues, and 90% of its exports. Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, holds oil reserves worth more than $13 trillion at today's prices and is the most valuable company in the world according to the Financial Times.