There have only been a handful of genuine deals in history: the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods etc. But no end of pointless summits - G20 and G8, EU etc - each claiming to broker a new deal with communiqués worded, like a horoscope, to mean everything and nothing. These summits are festivals of political vanity, as each host tries to boost his or her stature on the world stage. They opine about African poverty, tuck into a seven-course feast, then go home.
The G20 is normally a finance ministers' s summit, but was bumped up to a Heads of Government summit last time in Washington. Why? Because, then, pretty much each Western head of state was worried about an electoral backlash in their home country for having letting the debt bubble grow so big. It suited all of them to agree, unanimously, that this was the fault of "global forces" and nothing to do with them. Now Obama has been elected, this is different. And Brown's problem is that he copied the Bush administration's worst mistakes. He was a Greenspan adulator, who believed he'd abolished the cycle and believed bubbles were impossible to recognise, or to burst. While the sin was widely copied, no one sinner more than Brown - hence no country other than Iceland has faster-rising unemployment or a faster-shrinking economy.
Obama is ushering in language of the new era, pointing to sins in the old one. Brown won't like to hear that. Our Prime Minister should redden when he hears Obama saying (as he did last week) that he will confront "the schools that are not preparing our children and the mountains of debt that they stand to inherit." When Brown meets Obama next week, I suspect he'll be respectfully advised against the credit-stealing and summit grandstanding that he was so notorious for when Chancellor. Instead, he'll be asked to stump up more troops in Afghanistan. And when Brown addresses Congress? I have a draft of what he should say - in my News of the World column here.