UnNews:G-7 ministers, losing influence, meet in Arctic

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G-7 ministers, losing influence, meet in Arctic

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8 February 2010

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AKCANigloo koppenberg1

The igloo chosen for the cozy and informal meeting of the seven diplomats, their support staff, translators, concierges, interns, and hundreds of media representatives.

IQALUIT, Nunavut, Canada -- Finance officials from the Group of Seven (G-7) came to this tiny Arctic outpost hoping a stage-managed stunt would shift attention from their nations' declining economic prowess.

Ditching suits and ties in favor of furs and moccasins, finance ministers and bankers speared baby seals, ate raw meat seasoned with shaved ice, rubbed noses, and conducted business in the Inuit language, which has only 900 words and no way to express numerical quantities.

Host Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty sold the unusual location as a chance to take the G-7 back to its roots of straight talk among treacherous central bankers from countries that are trying to elbow one another out of the way. But the hoopla may have been a smokescreen for the group's waning power, as officials note privately that developing countries have grown in influence.

"Yup, the towel-heads are running the world now," said Flaherty. "Ethiopia is like the new Switzerland, eh? More whale blubber, anyone?"

Flaherty seized the opportunity of Canada inheriting the rotating presidency of the G-7 to schedule a conference in the middle of bleeping nowhere, and to snub Russia, China, and India, which had recently been invited as observers. At very informal fireside talks on Friday, Flaherty nevertheless distributed a document that stressed the meeting's relevance even though no one important was invited and they wouldn't have been able to find it anyway.

A highlight of the meeting was a shiver lodge, which is like the notorious sweat lodge in that the participants are unclothed, but provides temperatures well below freezing.

British Treasury chief Alistair Darling, between cold-induced convulsions, said he believed the meeting was "extremely worthwhile." But Japan's new Finance Minister, Naoto Kan, and a senior U.S. Treasury official stated their intention to take important matters to the G-20. "I trust people who wear ties, and those dangling, blue things are not ties," said Kan. However, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said the choice of location was a masterstroke: "Coming to the cold made the whole thing a lot warmer. And I hate talking finance, anyway."

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