One of the benefits – there may not be many – of hosting one of the Gx institution leaders’ summits is the opportunity to invite leaders not permanently attached to the particular leaders summit. It has long been the case for hosts. Thus, at the G7/8 leaders summit at Gleneagles, Tony Blair invited the leaders of the G5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa). These rising power leaders were invited thereafter – in one fashion or another - to Day 3 of the G7/8 summits. Of course today these same leaders are permanent members of the G20.
Now hosts didn’t necessarily limit themselves to just these G5 leaders. In the last G7/8 meetings in Italy the Italians invited a cavalcade of leaders from Africa and elsewhere to join in what the Italians called the ‘variable geometry’ of the meeting. It was this ever changing cavalcade of leaders that we have been told drove US President Barack Obama ‘wild’ and encouraged US officials to look to a permanent expansion of the then nascent G20 leaders summit. This story of course was floated in the days when it appeared the US administration – including the President – wanted to reduce the importance of, or eliminate the annual summit meeting all together for the G7/8.
Well that was then and this is now. And this summer Canada is the host of the G7/8 and the co-host of the G20; thus Prime Minister Harper and his officials are busy determining who is going to receive the nod to attend. While the list at the moment appears short it doesn’t necessarily seem that strategic. First PM Harper is apparently shopping around Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenede of the Netherlands (see, Kevin Carmichael, “The G20: Who deserves membership,” The Globe and Mail, Friday, May 7, 2010). Now the Dutch have been here before. At the first crisis meeting of the G20 in Washington, President Sarkozy using his organizing role, was able to shoehorn in the Spanish ( who are apparently permanent guests), the Dutch and the Belgians – all related to imperatives of the EU. There were degrees of soft ‘tut-tutting’ that the Europeans were playing their usual overrepresentation game. But now it seems that the Canadian Prime Minister is playing a European card. Strange indeed.
In another direction apparently the Prime Minister has invited two African representatives – Malawi and Ethiopia. Now the G20 has one African permanent representative – South Africa. In the endless legitimacy debate – African leaders and others have made it clear that in no manner does South Africa represent them. Well so the leaders of these two African countries appear to have been put on the guest list. The logic? Well the President of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika is the President of the AU (African Union) the plurilateral organization that represents some 53 Africa states. Makes some sense. As for Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, he was elected in 2007 to chair the executive committee of the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) – a serious G7/8 issue – and the Prime Minister has in the past been chosen to represent Africa at both G8 as well as G20 summits. Besides that Ethiopia is a big continental player though there are others – Egypt, Nigeria, just to mention two - who represent significant continental players as well.
In any case this appears to be at the moment the guests at the table – brought to you by Canada.