G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: G-20, G-7 members

Mains level: Significance of the these groups of counries and their say in global economy

Calling the existing Group of Seven (G-7) club a “very outdated group of countries”, US Prez. Trump said that he wanted to include India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia in the group.

Note the members of G7 and G20. UPSC may puzzle you asking which G20 nation isn’t a member of G7.

The Group of 7

  • The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • Initially, it was formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues.
  • The G-7 forum now discusses several challenges such as oil prices and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking.
  • It does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.
  • Canada joined the group in 1976, and the European Union began attending in 1977.

Evolution of the G-7

  • When it started in 1975—with six members, Canada joining a year later—it represented about 70% of the world economy.
  • And it was a cosy club for tackling issues such as the response to oil shocks.
  • Now it accounts for about 40% of global gdp.
  • Since the global financial crisis of 2007-09 it has sometimes been overshadowed by the broader g20.
  • The G-7 became the G-8 in 1997 when Russia was invited to join.
  • In 2014, Russia was debarred after it took over Crimea.

Expelling Russia

  • The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997.
  • The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
  • Since his election in 2016, President Trump has suggested on several occasions that Russia be added again, given what he described as Moscow’s global strategic importance.

Why Trump wants to expand the G7 group?

1.Joint  front against China

  •  The expanded G7 is seen as an attempt by the US to form a joint front against China.
  • The US President has stepped up his criticism of the Asian powerhouse over a range of issues, from initially holding back information on the coronavirus outbreak to its actions on Taiwan and changes in Hong Kong’s special status.

2.Pressure  from G7 countries

  • Another reason is Trump has faced heat from other G7 members in the last two summits, for various controversial decisions taken by him such as pulling out from trade deals, the Iran nuclear deal as well as the Paris climate pact.
  • Trump’s “America First” policy and his attacks on key US allies over various trade and economic issues have created faultlines within the grouping.

3.Add more weight to the grouping’s profile. 

The participation and eventual inclusion of Australia, South Korea, Russia (not favoured by the UK) and India could certainly add more weight to the grouping’s profile.

Why G7 needs a revival?

  • The rise of India, China, and Brazil over the past few decades has reduced the G-7’s relevance, whose share in global GDP has now fallen to around 40%.

Relevance of G7 for India

  • India will get more voice, more influence and more power by entering the G7.
  • After UN Security Council (UNSC), this is the most influential grouping.
  • If the group is expanded it will collectively address the humongous issues created by the Wuhan virus,
  • Diplomatically, a seat at the high table could help New Delhi further its security and foreign policy interests, especially at the nuclear club and UN Security Council reform as well as protecting its interests in the Indian Ocean.

Challenges in India’s entry

1.Lack of consensus:

  • The decision to expand the grouping cannot be taken by the US alone.
  • Other members such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada, have to not only agree to Trump’s proposal to expand the grouping but also on the new members that he wants to add, said a diplomatic source of one of the G7 member countries.

2.Upset China:

  • China is upset at the plans to expand the G7, stating that such actions will result in the creation of a “small circle” against Beijing and thus such a plan is “doomed to fail”.
  • China will put pressure on G-7 countries

Discipline China, not isolate it

  • Trump’s motivation in expanding the G-7 to include India and Russia while keeping China out is transparent.
  • If keeping China out was not the intention, the G-7 could easily have dissolved themselves and revitalised the presently inert G-20.
  • There are, of course, good reasons why Xi Jinping’s China requires to be put on notice for its various acts of omission and commission and disrespect for international law.
  • However, disciplining China is one thing, isolating it quite another.
  • If the new group is viewed as yet another arrow in the China containment quiver, it would place India and most other members of the group in a spot.
  • Everyone wants China disciplined, few would like to be seen seeking its isolation.
  • Asia needs a law-abiding China, not a sullen China.
  • Japan and Australia, have serious concerns about China’s behaviour.
  • But they may not like the new group to be viewed purely as an anti-China gang-up.
  • That may well be the case with South Korea too.
  • Indeed, even India should tread cautiously.
  • India has more issues with China than most others in the group, spanning across economic and national security issues and yet it should seek a disciplined China, not an isolated one.

So, what should be on the agenda of the new group?

  • The proposed expanded G7 group should define its agenda in terms that would encourage China to return to the pre-Xi era of global good behaviour.
  • The G-7 came into being in the mid-1970s against the background of shocks to the global financial and energy markets.
  • The G-12(proposed expanded group)  would come into being against the background of a global economic crisis and the disruption to global trade caused both by protectionism and a pandemic.
  • The two items on the next summit agenda would have to be the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising tide of protectionism and mercantilism and the global economic slowdown.
  • The summit will have to come forward with some international dos and don’ts to deal with the challenge posed by these disruptions.
  • New rules should apply to both the US and China: These new rules of international conduct would have to apply to both China and the US.
  • Widening the agenda: To be able to alter China’s behaviour without isolating it, the expanded group will have to widen their agenda.
  • Widening involves going beyond the purely economic issues that the G-7 originally focused on, and include climate change, health care and human rights.

Back2Basics: The G-20

  • The G-20 is a larger group of countries, which also includes G7 members.
  • The G-20 was formed in 1999, in response to a felt need to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns.
  • Apart from the G-7 countries, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • Together, the G-20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy.
  • As opposed to the G-7, which discusses a broad range of issues, deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets.
  • India is slated to host a G-20 summit in 2022.

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