Understanding the G20

There is a lot to unpack from the last G20. The meeting has countless details, aspects, and nuances to be dissected individually in order to fully understand the bigger picture of the meeting. Thus, on occasion for the latest G20 summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, which took place between the 15 & 16 November 2022, here is a general overview on what the G20 is, how it is structured, what are its technicalities and what its purposes are. 

To start off, the “Group of 20,” or G20 for short, is an intergovernmental forum composed of 19 countries, plus one representative of the European Union. During the meeting, issues ranging from economic, environmental, social, and security-related challenges are discussed. According to the G20 official website, the G20 members represent about “80 percent of world GDP, 75 percent of international trade and 60 percent of the world population.” So which countries are part of the G20? In short, the members are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States

As previously mentioned, the European Union is also a member as it represents around 18% of world gross domestic product (as of 2020), and hosts 7% of the world’s total population. Spain is also invited as a “permanent guest.” Although the exact definition of a “permanent guest” is unclear, according to a Global Policy article “the distinction between a permanent guest and a member is unclear, but it appears to simply mean that they are permitted to attend all summits without official member status.” Although the main actors of these meetings are country representatives, many organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, the Financial Stability Board, and the OECD are often invited to attend the meetings. Furthermore, other countries may also be invited to attend the meeting as “guests.” For instance, this year’s guests (excluding Spain) included Cambodia, Fiji, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore, Suriname, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Interestingly enough, despite the Netherlands being the 17th largest world economy, it is not a member of G20. Because of this, several Dutch ministers claim that the Netherlands deserves a spot in the G20. Henk Kamp for example, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, claims that the Netherlands should join the group of countries following a “reshuffle of members.” Another important note to make about the G20, is that as an international organization, the G20’s can not make legally binding decisions, has no administrative structure of its own, no permanent secretariat, and no permanent offices for its members. 

Despite this, the G20 does have a “presidency,” which is given to the hosting country. The country assigned with the role of presidency has to assure that the meeting’s agenda is being followed. The country currently holding the presidency is helped by the country which previously held the role, and the next country expected to hold it. Together these countries are known as the “Troika” countries, which currently include Italy, Indonesia and India. Furthermore, although the G20 does not have a permanent secretariat, the agenda and work coordination is carried out by each country themselves and the organizations attending the meeting. Following each meeting, the organization releases a “communiqué,” a document which expresses each country’s commitment to the meeting’s conclusions. For more information, here is a link to this year’s G20’s communiqué.

As an organization, the goals of the G20 have changed and transformed throughout its existence. Originally, the G20 was intended to be a meeting between ministries of finance and heads of central banks to discuss economic policies and tools to improve the global economic and financial situation. Its first inauguration summit on 15th December 1999 in Berlin, Germany, the scope of the G20 was “to provide a new mechanism for informal dialogue in the framework of the Bretton Woods institutional system, to broaden the discussions on key economic and financial policy issues among systemically significant economies and promote co-operation to achieve stable and sustainable world economic growth that benefits all.” At the 2009 summit in Pittsburg, USA, the group set itself a clearer goal “to create strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth,” but it was only in the 2011 summit in Cannes, France that the group decided t to “coordinate their policies and produce political agreements that are very important in addressing challenges due to conditions of global economic interdependence,” thus expanding the scope of the meetings to the political arena. 

Conclusively, the G20 is a rather complex entity. The group faces many geopolitical, environmental, and economic challenges ahead of itself, which only with the benefit of foresight can we tell whether it will be able to resolve them or not.

By Antonio













Image from g20.org

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