Farrell: G-20 So Much to Do, Yet So Little Will Get Done

The Heads of State of the G-20 are meeting in Pittsburgh. The meeting will be a far cry from last time they met and the world was facing a meltdown. But the agendas are so vastly different one from the other and the US does not have the economic and financial juice to determine any outcome, so muscle will be flexed and power will be grabbed. Consider the likely agenda items and the road blocks to constructive discussion.

1) Global rebalancing - which I think means getting the surplus countries (like China) to consume more, and the deficit countries (the U.S.) to save more. By implication this would require the Chinese to allow their currency to strengthen and that would be of serious concern to their export industries so I don't think this one goes anywhere.

G-20 Metting in Pittsburgh, PA
G-20 Metting in Pittsburgh, PA

2) Financial sector reform. France's Sarkozy has threatened to go home if he doesn't get his way on pay reform for bankers, and President Obama's financial regulation speech fell flat (to be kind) and any legislation in the US will be stalled in the Senate.

3) Global fiscal stimulus. This is such a huge issue. To get Germany's Merkel to align with France, or the Chinese to sit cozy with the Americans is not likely to happen.

4) Address Iran's nuclear program. To hear the Russians tell it, the Iranians don't have an issue. China tends to side with that argument and the US wants tougher sanctions. Could it be that the missile step-down President Obama announced

The Crisis: 1 Year Later - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage
The Crisis: 1 Year Later - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage

was an early attempt to get concessions from the Russians. I hope Obama didn't look into Putin's eyes to find a businessman. There is some slight movement between the U.S., Russia and China but I would be surprised to see follow through

5) Mid East Peace talks. George Mitchell just spent a week of shuttle diplomacy and neither the Palestinians or the Israelis are likely to concede enough to one another to create an atmosphere for continued talks.

6) The War in Afghanistan has always been an American effort and the rest of the world wants it to go away. But the Taliban is not going away and Mid East and European interests are gravely threatened but try telling them that.

7) Global Warming. With all the agenda items on our President's plate, this one will at best be addressed next year. There is no hint of a workable plan in Congress and the rest of the world wants to go its own way and have the US stop polluting.

8) Free trade - on the eve of the meeting, the Administration imposes duties on Chinese tires? Probably not the way to start the G-20 discussion on free trade.

Feel free to jump in any time here with your favorite topic. The extent of the likely agenda and the different passions of each attendee make it likely nothing happens. The US has always been a leader but with a laundry list of reforms it wants to tackle, the Administration's efforts too vast and spread out to rally enough support for any of them to be achieved.

But Pittsburgh will be justifiably showcased. It's a very nice city.