Two things are always present at G20 summits: the gathering of the most powerful international elites and the gathering of common citizens and workers to protests against them.
The upcoming G20 Seoul summit is no different. The elites of over 20 of the most powerful countries and 120 of the most powerful multinational corporations will gather.
Meanwhile, labor advocates have already begun protesting and worldwide labor union representatives have gathered as well.
Trade unions and the world's elites have serious ideological differences.
The main issue G20 political elites are trying to resolve is the global currency war and trade imbalances. For G20 business elites, one of their most important goals is also revitaliz[ing] world trade.
For labor interests, their primary objective is pushing for the creation of quality employment.
G20 leaders should, in the short term, give priority to reducing unemployment and, in the medium term, pursue a different model of growth and development– one that...creates decent work and distributes income fairly, said the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the world's largest trade union and a labor representative in Seoul.
Although the ITUC is pro-labor, it is not affiliated with Communism and instead supports democratic trade unionism.
G20 elites want fiscal sustainability and medium-term spending cuts. European political elites, arguably pressured by the world's financial elites, have already enacted short-term austerity measures in the form of reduced benefits for workers.
Labor interests at G20 warned against such austerity programs. European trade unions have already reacted strongly and at times violently against them.
The ITUC said that austerity measures would sharply increase the risks of a double-dip recession and fiscal stimulus should not be reduced until unemployment is on the path of falling to pre-crisis levels.
The ITUC also said it is morally unjust to cut public expenditures, wages, pensions, and social programs. Public balance sheets are strained in the first place partly because they took on massive private debt, which was arguably the result of irresponsible, distorted, and highly lucrative activities of the financial elites in the years leading up to the global financial crisis.
Furthermore, reducing public benefits will increase income inequality, which was responsible for the global crisis in the first place, said the ITUC. Kermal Dervis, a director at the Brookings Institution, said the concentration of wealth stunts consumer spending, which forces officials to enact dangerous and distorted policies like keeping ultra-low interest rates and allowing irresponsible subprime mortgage practices.
The ITUC also wants higher taxes on speculative assets and a fairer distribution of the tax burden between capital and labor. Specifically, it proposed a financial transactions tax (FTT) to punish short-term financial speculation. Moreover, it called for legal limitations on pay to bankers and traders.
The G20 elites, meanwhile, are mostly focused on the prevention of another global financial crisis through capital, liquidity, and other requirements for international financial institutions.
G20 leaders have expressed some concerns about the global development gap and widespread poverty. Labor interests are more vocal and explicitly called attention to the issue of fair income distribution and social protection.
The ITUC said wage growth should keep pace with worker productivity gains. In many countries, including China and the U.S., this has not been the case for at least a decade as wealth from such gains accrued disproportionately to the ultra-wealthy.
Email Hao Li in New York at email@example.com.