Can the ‘Cornwall consensus’ last, even half as long as the Washington one?



“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”
– Andy Warhol

The “Washington consensus”, a clutch of free market ideas, lasted roughly 30 years. It’s by no means certain the ‘Cornwall consensus’ will have as long a run.

If it runs at all.

Is the ‘Cornwall consensus’ really a thing?

Well, it was — during the week of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay. The ‘Cornwall consensus’ was the title of a memo by academics and policy wonks from each of the G7 countries whose leaders met in Cornwall. The memo set out a big agenda for a whole new phase of collaboration among rich Western democracies, extrapolating on the lessons of the ‘Washington consensus’.

First, that free markets and globalisation do not automatically guarantee equity for all. Second, that global supply chains need to be bolstered and diversified. And finally, that government needs to work with business to tackle society’s challenges.

All worth stating. And noting. The G7 leaders did conclude their summit by proclaiming the return of “values-driven” multilateralism. They also promised to do generous things with vaccines and to be more gracious in doling out climate change finance.

But both sounded better than the reality of what they would do.

The one billion doses that the G7 promised to donate falls far short of the 11 billion that the World Health Organization has said are needed to fight the coronavirus. And the G7 didn’t support (something both the US and India have backed), which is a waiver on vaccine intellectual property rights. As for climate change, the G7 simply repeated a financial pledge of a $100 billion annual climate budget for the developing world. It’s a great (round) number. It’s also a great (round) unmet number. It was promised more than a decade ago but has not been met.

I could be wrong, but I’m not sure the ‘Cornwall consensus’ will be long-lived.