Britain successfully stewarded the G8, the EU made progress with the US on TTIP, and the WTO reached a landmark agreement on trade, but the IMF clashed with the eurozone.
Britain invested significant diplomatic capital in its presidency of the G8 in 2013. Its June summit in Northern Ireland delivered progress on tax and other issues. Given the similar energy that France put into its G8 presidency in 2011, it is clear that the EU members of the G8 will continue to defend it against accusations of irrelevance. Russia hosted the G20 this year, but the St. Petersburg summit in September was overshadowed by the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. The European delegations at the Russian summit looked confused when Germany was one day late in adding its support for a declaration calling for action against Syria backed by Britain, France, and the US. But at least this was the first G20 meeting since 2010 that was not dominated by the euro crisis.
The EU and the IMF continued to co-operate closely over the eurozone (which currently receives 60 percent of IMF disbursements) although tensions over how to deal with Greece in particular flared up in public in mid-2013. The European Commission reacted irritably to IMF suggestions that it had misunderstood how to promote growth in Greece, and some EU officials argued that the IMF should reduce its role. Nonetheless, the IMF, the Commission and the ECB have continued to work together, often facing public anger.
European trade diplomacy made more progress, especially with the launch of talks on TTIP with the US, announced at the G8 summit after last-minute intra-EU wrangling over French demands to protect the audio-visual sector from competition. While many obstacles remain and large industrial lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic need to be convinced – and talks were complicated by the Snowden affair (see component 25) – TTIP is now a major political goal for the EU. Brussels also closed in on a trade deal with Canada. Concerns that such limited agreements will undermine the WTO were eased when the organisation reached a deal on easing international trade, in Bali in December, involving a sensitive India–EU compromise on subsidy issues.