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G20 summit: three big agenda items for world leaders

Topping the G-20 'to do' list is to settle on any additional economic stimulus – and whether to rein in banker bonuses. Global warming is on the table, too.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / September 23, 2009

The city of Pittsburgh is shown on Wednesday. The two-day G-20 Summit is scheduled to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Matt Rourke/AP

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Pittsburgh

President Obama hosts his first summit of world leaders starting Thursday, a gathering of the G-20 nations that, for the most part, are just starting to recover from the worst economic cataclysm since the Great Depression. Now they must decide whether to keep interceding, by pouring more government money into their respective economies, or whether to back off that strategy.

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Other big issues will be on the table, too, when leaders of the so-called Group of 20 banter around the table at the "environmentally correct" David L. Lawrence Convention Center here. Among them are global warming and, maybe, ways to keep bankers from making titanic amounts of money by taking extraordinary risks with the financial system.

Expectations are mixed for what these leaders, whose nations represent 90 percent of the world's economy, can actually achieve by the end of Friday. Some analysts anticipate they will reach agreements or at least concur on to a road map to solve global problems. Others, though, say the group's diversity and the leaders' different agendas may result in only an airing of the issues, but few solutions.

“On the one hand, it brings together all the major players – you need China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. But on the other hand, their interests are more diverse, so it’s harder to reach agreement,” says John Duffield, a political scientist at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “But any agreement they reach will be more meaningful.”

Here are the major issues the leaders are expected to discuss:

•The global economy. The major issue is whether the leaders will agree to continue a global fiscal stimulus, which has meant the expenditure of trillions of dollars for roads, schools, direct aid to individuals, and tax cuts. They may also discuss how to start to wind down this spending – an exit strategy.

Part of this discussion will be whether to set up a new global referee, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to blow the whistle when the world economies get out of balance – perhaps one nation growing quickly while another stagnates.