Context: The next G7 summit, tentatively scheduled in Washington DC in mid-June, has been postponed by the host, the U.S. recently.
More on the news:
- While postponing the summit “to at least September”, US president declared that in any case, the G7 “is a very outdated group of countries” and no longer properly represented the worldwide scenario.
- US President proposed a G10 or G11 instead, with the inclusion of India, South Korea, Australia, and possibly Russia.
- U.S. President wanted to include other countries, including the Five Eyes countries (an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and to talk about the future of China.
Why particularly these four countries are chosen by the US?
- If there’s any country in Asia that comes anywhere close to China in population, economic and military numbers, it is India.
- South Korea is a tech and economic superpower and the US is committed to defending it against any enemy.
- Australia is a natural ally for the US in the South Pacific, a region where China has been expanding its influence.
- Russia has military superiority and it also shares a large border with China.
Response from these countries
- India has welcomed the idea to expand the format of the grouping to keep up with the new realities of the post-COVID world.
- Australia and South Korea have also welcomed the invitation by the US President.
- However, Russia that had lost its membership of the grouping in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea would attend “if treated as an equal”.
What does it mean to India?
- India has acknowledged the fact that such an expanded forum would be in keeping with the emerging realities of the post-COVID-19 world.
- India has also said that it would be happy to work with the US and other countries to ensure the success of the proposed summit.
- The proposed G-11 grouping would recognize India’s place amongst the world’s richest nations, and acknowledge its global voice.
- India, which is also likely to be elected for the non-permanent member’s seat at the UN Security Council in New York, will be consequently at the global high table next month. And expansion of G7 appears in line with India’s thinking that India deserves a place at the global decision-making bodies.
- It is an intergovernmental organization that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
- The G-7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters.
- The G7 emerged as a restricted club of the rich democracies in the early 1970s.
- The quadrupling of oil prices just after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States, shocked their economies.
- Uring this time, French President finally invited the Finance Ministers of five of the most developed members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom, for an informal discussion on global issues.
- This finally transformed into a G7 Summit of the heads of government from the following year, with the inclusion of Canada (1976), and the European union attending as a non-enumerated member, a year later.
- The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Canada joined the group in 1976, and the European Union began attending in 1977.
- 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.
- The G-7 nations meet at annual summits that are presided over by leaders of member countries on a rotational basis.
- The summit is an informal gathering that lasts two days, in which leaders of member countries discuss a wide range of global issues.
- The host country typically gets to invite dignitaries from outside the G-7 to attend the Summit.
- The groundwork for the summit, including matters to be discussed and follow-up meetings, is done by the “Sherpas”.
- Sherpas are generally personal representatives or members of diplomatic staff such as ambassadors.
- The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.
- Initially formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues, the G-7 forum has deliberated about several challenges over the decades.
- It included issues such as the oil crashes of the 1970s, the economic changeover of ex-Soviet bloc nations, and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking
Economic Relevance of G-7 in the present context:
- When constituted, the G7 countries accounted for close to two-thirds of global GDP.
- However, currently they account for less than a third of global GDP on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, and less than half on market exchange rates (MER) basis.
- The seven largest emerging economies (E7), comprising Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, account for over a third of global GDP on purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, and over a quarter on MER basis.
- India’s economy is already the third-largest in the world in PPP terms, even if way behind that of the U.S. and China.
- By 2050 it is predicted that six of the seven of the world’s best performing economies will be China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. Two other E7 countries, Mexico and Turkey, also improve their position.
- It is also predicted that India’s GDP will increase to $17 trillion in 2030 and $42 trillion in 2050 in PPP terms, in second place after China, just ahead of the United States.
Other limitations of the G-7
- The success of multilateral institutions are judged by the standard of whether or not they have successfully addressed the core global or regional challenges of the time.
- However, The G7 failed to head off the economic downturn of 2007-08, which led to the rise of the G20.
- In the short span of its existence, the G20 has provided a degree of confidence, by promoting open markets, and stimulus, preventing a collapse of the global financial system.
- The G7 has not covered itself with respect to contemporary issues.
- Eg the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the challenge of the Daesh, and the crisis of state collapse in West Asia.
- No action on earlier decisions:
- G-7 had announced its members would phase out all fossil fuels and subsidies, but has not so far announced any plan of action to do so.
- The G7 countries account for 59% of historic global CO2 emissions (“from 1850 to 2010”), and their coal-fired plants emit “twice more CO2 than those of the entire African continent”.
Need for creating a new institution
- The world is currently in a state of disorder. The global economy has stalled and coronavirus pandemic will inevitably create further widespread distress.
- Existing international institutions have proven themselves unequal to these tasks. A new mechanism might help in attenuating them. And there are many issues that are unresolvable internally and need assistance by multilateral institutions.
- It would be ideal to include new emerging economies in the G-7 group to make it more relevant in the present context.
- Translating the changes into permanent character
- The host US President can invite any country as a G-7 special invitee, however changing its composition will require the approval of the other members.
- An evaluation of the G-7’s effectiveness as a multilateral forum is the need of the hour
- Currently, there are deep member differences on issues including climate change, security contributions, Iran, etc.
- Eg in France, last year, the grouping was unable to issue a joint communiqué due to these differences, a first in its 45-year-old history.
- Need to increase the relevance of the forum
- 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%.
- The expansion of the forum will surely enhance its global value.
- Coverage of key global issues:
- A new international mechanism will have value only if it focuses on key global issues.
- Global public health and the revival of growth and trade in a sustainable way (that also reduces the inequalities among and within nations) would be few issues to be included.
- An immediate concern is to ensure effective implementation of the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention and the prevention of any possible cheating by its state parties by the possible creation of new microorganisms or viruses by using recombinant technologies.
- Priorities for India
- India would be vitally interested in three: international trade, climate change, and the COVID-19 crisis.
- Second-order priorities for India would be cross-cutting issues such as counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation.
- On regional issues, establishing a modus vivendi with Iran would be important to ensure that it does not acquire nuclear weapons and is able to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Gulf and West Asia.
The end state in Afghanistan would also be of interest to India, as also the reduction of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.