So, the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires has ended but, as Elizabeth Saunders reported in a piece that was published on the Brookings Institution‘s web page, it “was overshadowed by other news. But … [she added] … there wasn’t much to overshadow anyway.” The problem, she explains, is that “Getting the world’s democracies to agree is hard enough—but the G-20 also includes authoritarian economic heavyweights such as China and Saudi Arabia. Major breakthroughs on specific issues tend to happen through lower-level diplomacy, though endorsements and commitments from powerful world leaders can still be important … [and, she concluded that] … This year’s G-20 suggested that global meetings are less and less helpful in managing these uncertainties. And [President George HW] Bush’s death was a reminder that managing downside risk in foreign policy—a task that often requires making difficult choices, and can sometimes be made easier by acting multilaterally—is no mean feat.“
The G-20 was created at about the time of the 2008/09 financial crisis but its roots were in crises of the late 1990s and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was one of its main architects when he was Canada’s finance minister. The goal was to bring a broad cross section of large economies into a single fold, the key participants were to be central bankers and finance ministers but, after the 2008/09 shocks it morphed from an essentially technical/financial forum into a larger version of the G-8 … something that is, arguably, not needed.
There is, de facto, a G-2 ~ America and China; and the G7 exists, although its utility (and future) is in doubt in the Age of Trump; thus, the G-20 achieves nothing except to allow India and South Korea to sit at the table, where they belong.
A couple of months ago I commented, at some length, about a proposal for a G-9 … or something, the aim of which would be to preserve the liberal-democratic, global, capitalist and secular world order … a “committee to save the world” as its proponents put it. That is something that, quite clearly, Donald J Trump’s America would reject out of hand and it is, equally, something which would not have room for China, Russia and Saudi-Arabia nor, some would argue, Argentina, Brazil and Turkey.
Who should be in a G-X that aims to promote liberalism, democracy, globalism, secularism and growth? I would suggest it needs a globally representative sample of liberal and democratic Trillion dollar+ economies: say the following (the non-members are shown with the reasons why they are excluded)
United States (not interested), China (not democratic), Japan, Germany, France (illiberal), United Kingdom, Brazil (illiberal), Russia (anti-democratic), Italy (illiberal), India, Canada, Australia, Spain (illiberal), Mexico (illiberal) and South Korea. That’s another G-7 but it has no Latin American, African or Arab members. Perhaps Brazil and Mexico, which are Trillion dollar economies, should be admitted after all, despite their quite illiberal status, along with, say, South Africa and/or Nigeria and, say, Qatar and/or Jordan and also, to add to the liberal and responsible ranks, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore. That would be a G-14 or G-16 or so with nine (of 15) Trillion dollar economies and five to seven other, smaller members to provide regional and political representation.
It should replace both the G-7 and the G-20 leaving the world with a de facto (but quite unofficial) G-2 that is, in it’s own way, the Global Security Council, and a G-16 that represents that part of the world that still wants a liberal-democratic, global, secular and capitalist world order and that is willing to help to promote and defend that world order against American, Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Saudi Arabian desires for something or some things quite different. The G-2 and the G-16 might, just possibly could, displace the UN Security Council, too.
It will be noted that I have excluded the EU; I think the EU was coherent and had a real voice back in the 1970s and ’80s and early 1990s when it had about a dozen members, almost all of whom shared reasonably common socio-economic and political goals. Now that it has 28± members it makes neither political nor economic sense. I would not object to another Group consisting of the the ASEAN, the EU, the RCEP and the USMCA and a few other regional trading blocks that would gather, in technical sessions, to explore ways to reduce trade barriers but I do not think that any one or even any two or three ‘Unions’ belong in a group where representatives of sovereign states gather, usually in plenipotentiary session, when the representatives of the ‘union’ or trade association do not, cannot have the power to decide on financial, political, diplomatic or (above all) military action.
Of course I believe, firmly, that Canada belongs at that table, so do Australia and Britain, all three are beacons of liberal-democracy, capitalism, globalism and reasoned secularism, ditto for Singapore, a very conservative democracy which enshrines the key liberal values, and Germany, for the Netherlands and South Korea. I recognize that some of my candidate members, like Qatar, are very poor examples of democracy … but they represent a region where, with the notable exception of Israel, democracy is almost totally absent. But before Canada can play the leading role that others would expect it needs a liberal government … and the Liberal Party of Canada said good-by to liberalism in 1968.