I see that the Globe and Mail reports that “Canada will focus on climate change and gender equality, among other themes, when it takes the helm of the G7 presidency next year, potentially drawing more attention to the differences of opinion between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump.“
The G7 … oh, yeah, one almost forgets about the G7 when we live in a world dominated by Donald Trump, Brexit, Xi Jinping, North Korean nuclear missiles and Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS. It’s just too easy to almost forget about the G7, the G20 and the OCED and even the UN Security Council. It may be, as Ian Bremmer suggests, a G-Zero world because “The United States will no longer play global policeman, and no one else wants the job. This is not a G-7 or a G-20 world. Welcome to the G-Zero.” Almost .. but not quite.
I doubt that anyone, except a few Canadians ~ members of the Laurentian Elites, by and large ~ will give a damn about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “focus on climate and gender equality” and other assorted bits of virtue signalling … in fact it appears that some in the world have already grown bored with it:
G-Zero or G2?
I don’t agree with Ian Bremmer that we have gone all the way to a G-Zero world … while America is, for now, tired of being “leader” we can and should hope that will change in a few (less than 20) years, and even if it doesn’t, China has made it pretty clear that it wants at least a share of global “leadership.” So, de facto, I think we have a G2 world and it may be a little reminiscent of the 1950s when we had the “Big Four” meetings (America, Britain, France and Russia) which were, really Soviet-American “summits” with Britain and France as (nuclear armed) bit players, cheering President Eisenhower on from the “cheap seats.” I think the world wants and needs a G2 wherein the American President and the Chinese Paramount Leader meet, formally, at least annually, to survey the global situation and reassure the world they they, at least, are still talking. There were two very public things that President Eisenhower did brilliantly in the mid 1950s when a global thermo-nuclear war was a very, very real (and frightening) possibility:
- He talked, regularly, with his Soviet (Russian) counterpart; and
- He played golf, regularly ~ a small thing, but one that comforted the world.
Both reassured America and the world that life, as we knew it, was likely to go on … both stoked America’s push to become a peaceful, consumer oriented society … USA-USSR summits remained normal but, after Eisenhower, America became less enthralled with peace and leaders like John Kennedy wanted to experiment with the levers of power and was, as one author of a seminal work on that period said, they were “unwilling to look and learn from the past.”
There is a lot of similarity, it seems to me, between the attitudes towards the rest of the world of the Kennedy and Trump administrations, but President John F Kennedy saw the necessity of regular USA-USSR summits and so, I suspect, will President Trump. So, that’s the G2 … the world wants and needs it and Canada should work towards facilitating friendly relations between America and China, despite what we, Canadians, may think of the leaders involved.
Now, what about the G9?
The G9, you ask, what’s that? Well it is the very unofficial nuclear club: the USA, the UK, Russia, France, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel (although Israel never officially admits to having at least 50 and likely as many as 400 nuclear weapons). Iran, of course, is trying to make it a G10. The G9 doesn’t meet, it doesn’t have summits but it still matters. The fact that it is, officially, so small also matters. Canada is a peaceful nuclear power and we should stay that way ~ a leader in clean, green nuclear energy and a leader on the nuclear non-proliferation file, too.
Canada’s strategic aim must be to keep the G9 at nine members … and preferably to reduce it by taking away North Korea’s nuclear weapons, but that’s another topic entirely …
Remember the G20? Remember the Great Recession of 2007? Before we can understand why the G20 even exists we ned to think about why the G7 (earlier the G5 and then the G*) was a failure. The original G5 was the USA, Japan, Germany, Britain and France ~ which sort of made sense, except for France … the first four were the four of worlds five largest economies, France might have been sixth but Italy had, arguably, a bigger and better economy than France, but neither reported with figures anyone really trusted. Then, at the US’ insistence, the G5 was enlarged to include Canada and Italy (to balance Canada, the Europeans said) and Russia … Russia made no sense at all.
Then came the Great Recession and most of the world blamed the G8, not without some reason. The G8 kicked Russia out … it should never have been admitted in the first place, and then it was agreed that the remaining G7 should be enlarged to make it the G20, with an expanded scope to give central bankers, led by the Bank of Canada’s (now the Bank of England’s) Mark Carney, a starring role … Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India (remember the BRICS?), Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey were added. A more sensible and more broadly representative G20 could be (1) Argentina, (2) Australia, (3) Brazil, (4) Canada, (5) China, (6, 7 and 8) the Eurozone (represented by three ministers/bankers), (9) Hong Kong (separately from China) (10) Indonesia, (11) Israel, (12) Japan, (13) Jordan (14) Nigeria, (15) Norway, (16) the Philippines, (17) Russia, (18) Saudi Arabia, (19) South Africa and (20) South Korea … one could, easily, add (21) Malaysia, (22) Mexico, (23) Singapore, (24) Switzerland and (25) Turkey and make it a G25 and achieve even better balance. The G20 still makes sense if it is a forum for, mainly, financial and banking matters.
But, what about the OECD? It’s an old, established, trusted, well staffed organization – it’s 35 members plus five partners include most countries I think should be in a G25. I think the G20 exists because, in 2008, the USA, mainly, felt a need to be seen to be doing something and creating a whole new body is sexier than enlarging or repurposing an old, established one.
Canada needs to be in the G20. We are a major trading nation and international banking and finance matters to us. We should work to expand the G20 to include Hing Kong which, despite its status as an autonomous region of China, is, next to London and New York, the world’s most important international banking centre. Singapore also needs to be in the group because it, too, is a major banking/trade centre.
What about the G7, then?
Well, the short answer is …
… it’s irrelevant … which may explain why Justin Trudeau is talking about it. It is just another pointless talking shop, rather like the United Nations Security Council … harmless but, equally, worthless. The G2 matters, the G20* should matter for global finance … the G9 count for a lot of worry, but the G7?
I suppose the challenge for Canada is to be taken seriously …
… but it’s Justin Trudeau who’s leading the country and it’s hard to imagine that the likes of Shinzō Abe, Angela Merkel and Theresa May will invite him into the circle where the grownups talk, isn’t it?