I am sitting in a cavernous press centre in Pittsburgh at the G-20, watching television pictures on a big screen of anarchist demonstrators being tear-gassed in a suburb about four miles from here. Now I understand one of the reasons for putting the summit in Pittsburgh. You can throw an exclusion zone around the centre of the city, in a way that just isn’t possible in New York.
Obama has also chosen Pittsburgh for reasons of tact. It would just have been too much of a snub to the other 170-plus members of the UN General Assembly, if a select group of 20 nations had snuck off to hold a separate, exclusive meeting in another part of Manhattan. It would have been like one of those New York night clubs, where the hoi polloi are held back behind a rope, while the favoured few are waved through the VIP entrance.
Pittsburgh is also regarded as a showcase for post-industrial recovery. The city was decimated by the shrinkage of the steel industry. Half the population has moved away, as the jobs disappeared. Pittsburgh’s population, which was 676,000 in 1950, is now a little over 300,000. The city’s champion football team, the Steelers, are well supported all around the country because there are so many Pittsburghers in exile. However, these days, the local economy is regarded as a success story. New industries have sprung up in medical services, robotics and computing. The unemployment rate is “only” 7.7%, which is lower than the rest of the US. They should hand-out t-shirts at the summit, with the slogan – “You can survive globalisation” Read more