Reform of the G8 and G20

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G20 Information Centre, University of Toronto G20 Summits — Official Documents

Javier Solana: The Lost Spirit of the G20
As Japan prepares to host its first G20 leaders’ summit later this month, little remains of the open and cooperative spirit that marked the first such gathering in 2008. But although the United States will most likely continue its protectionist drift, other G20 countries should use the occasion to make a clear case for free trade.
(Project Syndicate) On June 28-29, Japan will host its first G20 summit. The initial gathering of G20 leaders, back in November 2008, took place amid the turmoil that wracked global financial markets following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It produced a clear statement: “We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward in times of financial uncertainty.” In other words, the leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed not to repeat the policy mistakes that aggravated the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Unfortunately, little of that open and cooperative spirit remains today. Even before Donald Trump was elected US president, the world’s leading economies were yielding to protectionist temptations. But Trump has brought the problem to the boiling point: his withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was the first of many reckless trade measures, among which his current tariff offensive against China stands out. And Trump’s inflexibility at last year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires resulted in the first communiqué that did not include a vow to resist protectionism.Although Trump’s commercial crusade is constantly improvised and meshes confusingly with other vectors of US foreign policy, it nonetheless reflects a set of clear economic beliefs. Essentially, Trump regards international trade as a zero-sum game in which countries win solely by exporting more than they import. For countries that run external deficits, like the US, he believes that “trade wars are good, and easy to win”: it’s enough, he claims, for the US simply to stop trading with countries that run a large bilateral surplus with it.


What’s the point of the G20, anyway?
Comment submitted to The Guardian in response to the above pretty well sums up our feelings
It is meant to be a cheap replacement for the One-World government that is required for a global society to function effectively without war. The world, as we currently have it, will continue its experiment in global cooperation until the next global disaster which escalates into 200-300 million dead will convince the world’s surviving leadership that voluntary government is not a viable framework for actual government. But, hey, we didn’t really need those people anyway. And when most of the planet’s infrastructure and economy is leveled, then we can start over again fresh as we did in the late 1940s and early 1950s following World War II. We can build and rebuild the world using the cultural, social and economic knowledge we have accrued, and maybe the third time around we can more deeply grasp the importance of stabilizing human systems against an environment that is ever-changing. Maybe we will be able to devise a system that is both stable and elastic and dynamically-responsive to changes in human populations without forcing them to cannibalize one another. Maybe society will rearchitect itself so that humans are once again designed to be cooperative rather than competitively destructive? (November 2014)

China to host G20 Summit in 2016
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Sunday in Brisbane that China will host the G20 Summit in 2016. On Sunday, the leaders of the Group of 20 also announced a plan to boost global growth by more than $2 trillion over five years.
Turkey holds the chair of G20 in 2015. With China being selected for the 2016 presidency, the G20 troika would now consist of Turkey, Australia and China.

July 2013

Reforms emerging from 2010 G20 protests must be acted upon
June 26 marked the three-year anniversary of the G20 summit in Toronto. The legacy of that momentous weekend in 2010 is still being formed through lawsuits, legislation, civil complaints, and policy changes. The G20 saw one of the most widespread affronts to civil liberties in Canadian history, including those guaranteeing freedom of expression and the press. These violations gave rise to intense scrutiny of those responsible; whether this will result in systemic change is yet to be seen.
The impact of the 2010 G20 Summit (and the ensuing protest and police action) in terms of accountability and systemic change has been gradual and incremental. While experiencing limited victories, members of the media benefit from every court case won against those responsible for violating civil liberties during the G20. These results somewhat mitigate the chilling effect that could have been cast over the participation of the public and the media in future large-scale events. The body of analysis resulting from the G20 is variously impressive and underwhelming. However, it will require our collective, continued scrutiny to ensure that the various police forces and authorities truly do reform and act on the recommendations made. Otherwise, we will have learned nothing and the potential for widespread abuse of power over protestors and those who cover them, remains.

April 2011

Paul Heinbecker: The future of the g20 and its place in global governance (CIGI)
10 January 2011
Is Sarkozy hitched to a fading star?
French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Washington today for talks with President Obama devoted in large part to shaping the G-20’s agenda. Since taking the reins of the world’s premier consultative group, Sarkozy and his advisers have outlined an array of problems they’d like to tackle, including restructuring the international monetary system to decrease reliance on the dollar as a reserve currency, coordinating development strategies, controlling skyrocketing food prices, and perhaps even reforming the U.N. Security Council. Shortly before Sarkozy’s arrival in Washington, Brazil’s finance minister again warned about what he described as currency manipulation and insisted that the G-20 refocus on that problem.Even as Sarkozy bends Obama’s ear about agenda items and crafts his strategy, there’s a growing feeling that the G-20’s finest days may be behind it.


30 December
Sarkozy’s bid to save the G20, and himself
(Foreign Policy) The FT argues that it was a bad year for global governance efforts, and particularly the G20:
This largely tracks with what I’ve heard from close observers of the G20 process. The shine came off the group this year, and it’s an open question how useful it will be outside of crisis environments like that the world encountered in 2008-2009.
For good or ill, G20 leadership has now passed from South Korea to France, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy hopes that his year of international leadership will boost his bleak domestic political prospects. In typical Sarkozy fashion, he’s talked about a hyper-ambitious G20 agenda that goes well beyond limited trouble-shooting.
Welcome from the French G20 presidency
29 December
A bad year for global governance
(FT) All in all, 2010 was not a good year for the global governance industry. With the financial crisis pivoting from the private financial system to sovereign debt, and global current account imbalances starting to re-emerge, the world needed robust mechanisms to cope with both. Instead it got a series of inadequate short-term deals that staved off immediate crisis while leaving the bigger problems in place.
In spite of the talk of reform to the international financial and policy architecture, and particularly the continued shift towards the G20 as a forum of governance, countries have yet to show that they have the political courage to form a consensus and take tough decisions.
12 November
G20 shuns US on trade and currencies

(FT) World leaders agree only to compromise ‘guidelines’
24 October
Trade imbalance targets elude G20
Ministerial meeting can only set framework policy
9 July
Gordon Smith* comments on M D Nalapat
The last thing we need is a G12 competing with a G8
We must get beyond summit fatigue to better manage global interdependence
An important article was circulated this week by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, following on the G8/G20 meetings in Canada and the announcement that France will play host to next year’s summits. The article was written by M.D. Nalapat, a professor of geopolitics at India’s Manipal University, but it would be well to assume that it reflects perceptions, including government ones, in Beijing, New Delhi and elsewhere.
Ottawa must ensure that a G12 competing with the G8 is not the follow-up or, worse, the result of the summits just held in Canada. That would be a major setback. The last thing the world needs is a rival G12. But if we persist in excluding China, India and other major developing countries, that’s the result we’ll face.
Only a few years ago, the G8 started meeting with a group initially called the Outreach 5 (China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa). Certain leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to move quickly to a G13 (or a G14 with Egypt, so there would be one Islamic country). Everyone would be treated equally, but it didn’t happen. The five countries decided they, too, would meet separately, and they styled themselves as the G5. So the G8, in effect, had created the G5. Are we going to misstep again?
I hope the South Koreans will show wisdom and leadership when they play host to the G20 in November. It’s time to fold the G8. I also hope Mr. Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will rethink their stated intention to maintain the G8. It’s not clear whether Mr. Sarkozy, the 2011 host, still wishes to make the G8 into a G13 or G14. If he does, there’ll be a problem with those G20 countries not invited.
*Gordon Smith is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance in Waterloo, Ontario, and director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria
Guy Stanley comments: Smith is correct of course. One huge difficulty is that when things are going well for the west, it feels no need to consult or to make concessions and when things are going badly, the governments lack the political capital required to engage in meaningful consultations and actually make concessions. Doha is perhaps the most obvious current example. Another problem is that while the BRICS or some of them, can “lead” the G-20, there is little solidarity–developing country coalitions are vulnerable to cherry picking by the west in the form of bilaterals, whether trade deals or some other “special relationship” such as “enabling clause” trade concessions under the WTO –to the point that the hundreds of bilaterals and special regional arrangements are swamping the most favoured nation system. The breakdown in credit markets, pull back of consumer demand and lack of job creation in the west may not undermine globalization as some suggest, especially if accompanied by austerity–because price competition will continually force companies to search for cheaper production sites. Ultimately, though, the global overcapacity is mostly in the west and western capital is moving east to where the demand is still strong. In other words, virtually every current trend supports Smith’s argument. The fatal illusion dogging the west is that it can somehow preserve power and influence with its current course when in reality it is a recipe for irrelevance.
7 July
M D Nalapat: G8 must make way for new system
BEIJING, July 7 (Xinhuanet) — Over the years, there has been a crescendo of voices from the US and the EU urging that large emerging economies such as India and China be “responsible stakeholders in the international system”.
What is left unsaid is that such voices expect Delhi and Beijing to be responsible to Washington and Brussels. They would like the leaders of both Asian giants to adopt (or to agree to) policies that harm the interests of their own citizens, and promote the interests of a few in the US and the EU, such as the large financial institutions that have almost destroyed the world economy by their greed, or oil and copper companies who assist speculators to drive up prices of raw materials in a way that harms the economic interests of the 2.5 billion people of India and China combined.
When the G8 was expanded into the G20, it was expected that the new forum would set right the imbalance in global consultations on financial matters by ensuring that the voices of China, India and Brazil are heard before policy gets decided. In other words, just as the G7 became the G8, the G8 would become the G20.
Instead, the G8 has continued, and has imposed a format whereby they meet in advance of the G20 summits and work out a common position that they then ask the other 12 countries to accept. The G8: G20 format has become a means to influence the big emerging nations to once again accept the policy leadership of the US and the EU, rather than being a forum to reconcile the needs of both the developed as well as the emerging countries.
If the G8 continues, then the “G12” need to meet in advance of such get-togethers the way the G8 does, so as to seek to find common positions on global issues.
Guy Stanley comments: Nalapat is always worth reading. He offers a healthy corrective to the over-supply of self-satisfied comments and news analyses available in the western press. The fact is that the balance of economic power and population is shifting eastward and the west, which has had its own way for a couple of centuries, must now move over and enlarge the system of global coordination to take account of the interests of the new players. The most conspicuous failure to do so is probably the Doha trade round where the west is simply politically unable to ditch harmful agricultural subsidies: Canada is stuck on supply management, the US on its ruinous payouts to western growers, the EU on the CAP. In some cases the subsidy per head of livestock exceeds the income per capita of people in poor countries. These tensions are serious enough to break global institutions. But the record is not wholly without promise: the UN security council has been enlarged, even if thorough-going reform is blocked, and the IMF is on the verge of recalibrating its governing institutions, mainly in favour of India and China. Global warming is another area where concessions seem to be available on both sides. There are two huge underlying problems however: one is that the west is governed more or less through democratic and market-oriented institutions that operate in the extreme short term while in the east, there is a rising tide that favours a technocratic dictatorship that is only semi responsive to popular opinion and focuses on 5-10 year investment decisions through state enterprises (the so-called Beijing Consensus). (Perhaps one could summarize this non-ideologically as political discount rate differences.) There are also some historic geopolitical issues that will not go away (e.g. Israel-Palestine, the middle-Eastern power balance, African resources, Taiwan-China, and various territorial claims and border issues throughout Asia–all, except oil, mostly managed through standard diplo-military maneuvering). Nalapat suggests that without a radical change of perspective by the west, the emerging market countries could simply go their own way. If the world were to divide up into economic-political blocs, the planet would become much more dangerous and much less prosperous. But it is not clear that western political institutions can do much better than they’ve been doing, nor that the developing countries can agree on a positive agenda as easily as they can agree that the west should change its spots. One thing is for sure: demography matters — 20 years from now, these issues of global balance will seem a lot clearer.
4 July
The Unaccountable G-8
by Jeffrey D. Sachs
When hosting the 2010 G8 summit of major economies, the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, called for an “accountability summit” to hold the G8 responsible for the promises that it made over the years. So let’s make our own account of how the G8 did. The answer, alas, is a failing grade. The G8 this year illustrates the difference between photo-ops and serious global governance.
3 July
Hubert Bauch has the last word – or at least, summarizes reaction well, clearly and concisely G20: Spectacle vs. substance
… Donald Johnston, formerly a senior federal cabinet minister and later secretary-general of the OECD, has extensive experience with high-level international conferences and said this week the current summit format needs a rethink. “The process has evolved in a different direction than foreseen at Rambouillet. Apart from the cost, the numbers at the G20 level have really become a huge management challenge.”
Proposals from various quarters for making summits much cheaper and more manageable include cutting the leaders’ entourages of officials-in-waiting down to something like two dozen per, as opposed to the several hundred they now typically bring along. Another is that they should be held in either remote locations, possibly an island dedicated for summit purposes with jointly funded infrastructure, or already secure places, such as major military bases. There is also widespread agreement on what not to do again: hold summits in the downtown of major cities or hold back-to-back G8 and G20 summits in separate locations. In other words, what Canada did this time.
It is encouraging to see that the realization that summits should be done differently is dawning on future summit hosts, thanks in large part to the Canadian example on what to avoid. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will host next year’s, promised -some thought a tad undiplomatically -to bring his off at one-tenth the cost of the Ontario extravaganza. British Prime Minister David Cameron, the scheduled 2013 host, suggested that G8 meetings should be scaled down and more narrowly focused, and possibly coupled with top-level United Nations and NATO meetings.
Possibly the greatest benefit to emerge from these Canadian summits is that they might serve as a lesson to the world to stop doing summits this way. If that lesson stands, the world will owe us a billion thanks
29 June
C.P. Chandrasekhar — G20: Where no side wins
There is only one message that comes out of Toronto, where the G20 summit has come to an end. The formation, ostensibly created to reflect changing power equations in the world economy, serves no purpose. It has turned out to be one more talking shop in which agreement to disagree is presented as a consensus.
Cameron eyes reform of the G8 in 2013
(AFP European edition) Britain will try to reform the G8 when it chairs the group in 2013, narrowing its focus to foreign policy and security, and could even combine meetings with NATO summits, premier David Cameron said.
The broader G20, comprising developed and developing countries, would remain the main economic forum for world leaders, a status it achieved during the global financial crisis, he said.
“When it comes to the UK’s turn in 2013 there is an opportunity to change the way the G8 works,” Cameron told reporters on his flight home Monday from summits of the Group of Eight rich nations and the Group of 20 in Canada.
29 March
Global Governance: The G-20 and the UN
By Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations
(IPS/Terraviva) UNITED NATIONS, March 26– Since November 2008, the G-20 has taken on an increasingly active role in catalysing global actions in response to the financial crisis. There is a widely held view that by coming together to take swift and decisive actions, the G-20 helped avert a global economic depression last year.
The global economic crisis also underscored the need for more effective global governance mechanisms for policy coordination and international cooperation. It has been clear for some time that the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions are insufficiently equipped to meet today’s global challenges in a timely manner and that they need to be reformed and supplemented by some new global framework.

10 June 2004
How to make the G-8 ‘club’ a little less cozy
(CSM) The world’s exclusive club of powerful industrial nations, called the Group of Eight, may soon become less snooty, more democratic, and more representative of the changing world.
The move, if it comes, underlines the growing clout of the developing world. But recognition won’t come easily as the world’s traditional – and mostly Western – powers cling to the levers of influence over the global economy and, at times, its politics.
The immediate question for the cozy club: Should it expand wholesale or step by step?
The question is sparked by the rise of China – still ranked as a poor, developing nation but coming on strong.

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