Does the G20 Still Matter?
The first few gatherings of the G20, at the height of the global financial crisis, yielded concrete results, and seemed to promise an auspicious future for global governance. But in the years since, the group has increasingly replaced action with empty talk, piling ever more goals on top of the unmet objectives of summits past.
LONDON – When the G20 leaders held their first summit in late 2008, many welcomed what looked like a diverse, highly representative new forum for crafting common solutions to global problems. The group acquitted itself well in responding to the global financial crisis, and, for a while, its emergence as a forum for international policy coordination seemed like one of the only silver linings of that mess.
I was certainly among those applauding the G20’s initial achievements. Since 2001, when I identified the rise of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) as a key feature of the twenty-first-century world economy, I had been calling for a major overhaul of global-governance structures. As I argued at the time, the continued dominance of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) was increasingly out of step with the complex world of the early 2000s. To this day, the G7’s exclusion of China is a glaring omission, made worse by the presence of so many European countries, most of which share a currency and abide by the same fiscal- and monetary-policy rules.
Unfortunately, following the G20’s summit in Osaka, Japan, last month, I cannot help but wonder whether that gathering, too, has lost its purpose. Indeed, the only relevant development to come from the summit was a agreement on the sidelines between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who brokered yet another “truce” in their countries’ trade war.