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It is easy to be skeptical about the kind of meetings that U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a small army of other global and regional leaders swept through in China, Myanmar and Australia this month.November's three summits – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, the East Asian Summit in Naypyidaw and the G-20 meeting in Brisbane – should have the skeptics eating their words. Each contributed substantially to the quality of global governance, as summit diplomacy ideally should, in three distinct ways: formal outcomes, useful byproducts and positive atmospherics.Other formal outcomes of the G-20 meeting were agreements – backed by more policy detail than most commentators had expected – to stimulate global growth.All three of November's meetings show that multilateral summits – at least when well prepared and properly conducted – can and do add value to global and regional governance in a number of ways.First, such meetings can set the policy agenda on crucial economic and security issues, from which participating leaders will be embarrassed if they backslide – even if, as is often the case, agreement has been wrung out of them by strong peer pressure. Finally, multilateral summits can achieve things that meetings of lesser political mortals cannot.
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