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Just five years ago any question outside the ivory towers of academia and the world of policy wonks over the role of the G20 group would have been met by a stark “G-who?”

Founded in 1999 to supersede the G33 and G22, the organization acted for a decade as a useful talking shop to discuss key global economic issues – until crisis struck.

Everything changed in 2008 thanks to the need of the developed country members of the G7 group of nations to tap the resources of the fast-growing and – at that time – recession-immune emerging markets. The swiftly-arranged Washington summit...

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