Friday, April 3, 2009

The G20

I have been thinking about the G20--not the summit itself, but the very idea of the G20 as an organization.

This organization, it is no exaggeration, somehow grew in prominence by stealth, but now after just under six years of existence it is perhaps the most effective international group imaginable, as it includes the mot powerful nations of the world, all of them, in one way or another. I am, though, here only interested in its composition, and the principles of that composition: who is left in, who left out, who qualifies.

First of all, there are only 19 member nations; the European union is also a member, And here if the G20 was actually a rule-making body, if it had any regulatory or fiduciary responsibility, there would and should be objections; after all, EU member states Germany, France, Italy, and Britain are all members, so EU membership is like both the USSR and Ukraine being members of the 1945-1991 UN, or both California and the US being members of the G20 now. (I am sure California is bigger economically than several G20 member states). Again, if the G20 were functionally rather than pragmatically important, other regional/federative groups would rightly claimed disenfranchisement. One could say EU membership in the G20 is to represent the smaller EU members, the recently admitted states, but this then implies that these states need the EU, are dependent on it, but the Big Four do not.

This is reminiscent of the debate inspired by the separate memberships of the English-speaking Dominions in the :league of Nations after World War I: but one of those nations is here absent: New Zealand. Canada, Australia, and (a now happily multiracial_ South Africa are all members, all judged to be among the 20 biggest economies, but new Zealand is not. White and English-speaking, yet it is among the shut-out. Although Canada was routinely criticized for not really being up to membership in the G7/G8, it is felt that being among the G20 is its proper rank, and there was only a slight sense of pushiness about Stephen Harper’s inevitable swanning-around on those second-rank US cable networks that would have him at the summit. But Canada is among the circle of the privileged; the trek across the border from British Columbia to Bellingham, WA is requires no upward step in terms of conglomerate economic power. Not so the Tasman Sea: and no wonder the continual exodus of New Zealanders to Australia, which is not a political or cultural exodus, but an economic one.

To be a Muslim nation in the G20, one has ot either have oil (Indonesia, Saudi Arabia) or not be Arab and be partially European (Turkey). Saudi Arabia's presence is almost ludicrous; as an economic power, it is like the Cleveland Cavaliers if no one but LeBron James were on the team. South Korea's inclusion is justified, and also helps provide a bridge between China and Japan, but also conjures a host of other possible claimants. Taiwan might well be in the next ten; but it will never be the G30 because China would protest that. Who would have thought thirty years ago that China would be not only politically but economically more powerful than Japan?

If Iran were in dialogue with the Western world, it would be, and deserve to be, a member. And one would think Nigeria is certainly knocking on the door as well, or will be after a few more years of relative stability and economic growth.

As for the Latin American states, if you are not Mexico or one of the ABC countries (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile_--in other words, if you are an Andean or Central American country, you are out of luck. One sees why a lot of the countries thus excluded are electing more radical governments, and why such organizations as UNASUR may be appealing as vehicles ot pack more collective weight--although one doubts that any other federative group will be members alongside the EU--unless that is you count the US.

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