The last thing we need is a G12 competing with a G8

The Globe and Mail

July 9, 2010

An important article was circulated this week by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, following on the G8/G20 meetings in Canada and the announcement that France will play host to next year’s summits. The article was written by M.D. Nalapat, a professor of geopolitics at India’s Manipal University, but it would be well to assume that it reflects perceptions, including government ones, in Beijing, New Delhi and elsewhere.

“Over the years, there has been a crescendo of voices from the U.S. and the EU urging that large emerging economies such as India and China be ‘responsible stakeholders in the international system.’ … When the G8 was expanded into the G20, it was expected that the new forum would set right the imbalance in global consultations on financial matters by ensuring that the voices of China, India and Brazil are heard before policy gets decided. In other words, just as the G7 became the G8, the G8 would become the G20. …

“Instead, the G8 has continued, and has imposed a format whereby they meet in advance of the G20 summit and work out a common position that they then ask the other 12 countries to accept. … If the G8 continues, then the ‘G12’ needs to meet in advance of such get-togethers the way the G8 does, so as to seek to find common positions on global issues. …

“Both the developed economies as well as the big emerging economies need each other for mutual benefit and common prosperity. Both need to work in harmony and conciliation. However, the present situation is that the G8 still seeks to impose their views on the rest of the world. … The developed world needs to accept that it can no longer dictate to the big emerging countries. They need to understand that a win-win solution means that both sides share both the pain and the gain. …

“The G8 needs to disband itself so that both developed and emerging countries can together work to resolve the problems facing humanity. Should it continue, then we need a G12.”

Ottawa must ensure that a G12 competing with the G8 is not the follow-up or, worse, the result of the summits just held in Canada. That would be a major setback. The last thing the world needs is a rival G12. But if we persist in excluding China, India and other major developing countries, that’s the result we’ll face.

Only a few years ago, the G8 started meeting with a group initially called the Outreach 5 (China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa). Certain leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to move quickly to a G13 (or a G14 with Egypt, so there would be one Islamic country). Everyone would be treated equally, but it didn’t happen. The five countries decided they, too, would meet separately, and they styled themselves as the G5. So the G8, in effect, had created the G5. Are we going to misstep again?

I hope the South Koreans will show wisdom and leadership when they play host to the G20 in November. It’s time to fold the G8. I also hope Mr. Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will rethink their stated intention to maintain the G8. It’s not clear whether Mr. Sarkozy, the 2011 host, still wishes to make the G8 into a G13 or G14. If he does, there’ll be a problem with those G20 countries not invited.

Mr. Cameron said the 2013 G8 should focus on “strategic” and “security” issues. That’s what Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to do, and it didn’t work. The agenda doesn’t fall into issues appropriate for the G8 and others appropriate for the G20 (not to mention the G13/14). Problems such as nuclear proliferation, development, failed states and climate change should be on the agenda for the entire G20 membership.

We must get beyond summit fatigue (and reviews of police behaviour) and think about the future of summits. A G20, with a G8, then a G12 and maybe a G13/14? That’s no way to manage ever-increasing global interdependence.

Gordon Smith is a distinguished fellow at The Centre for International Governance in Waterloo, Ontario, and director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.

About the Author

A former Canadian deputy foreign minister, NATO ambassador and G7/G8 Sherpa, Gordon Smith is a leading expert on the evolution of the G20 and global summitry.