11 June, 2020
7 Min Read
An unravelling of the Group of Seven
Jayant Prasad, a former diplomat, served as Director General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
GS-PAPER-II International organisation
With the world in disorder, a new mechanism will have value only if it focuses on key global issues
The next G7 summit, tentatively scheduled in Washington DC in mid-June, has been postponed by the host, U.S. President Donald Trump. His decision followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to stay away from the meeting, ostensibly because of restrictions on travel imposed by COVID-19. She may not have wanted to go just for a photo opportunity. The recent meetings of G7 have had desultory results.
Logic of expansion
While postponing the summit “to at least September”, Mr. Trump declared that in any case, the G7 “is a very outdated group of countries” and no longer properly represented “what’s going on in the world”. He asked, rhetorically, why not a G10 or G11 instead, with the inclusion of India, South Korea, Australia and possibly Russia.
Elaborating this logic, the White House Director of Strategic Communications said the U.S. President wanted to include other countries, including the Five Eyes countries (an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States), and to talk about the future of China. A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official immediately reacted, labelling it as “seeking a clique targeting China”.
When constituted, the G7 countries accounted for close to two-thirds of global GDP. According to the 2017 report of the accountancy firm, PwC, “The World in 2050”, they now account for less than a third of global GDP on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, and less than half on market exchange rates (MER) basis.
The limitations of G7
The success or otherwise of multilateral institutions are judged by the standard of whether or not they have successfully addressed the core global or regional challenges of the time. The G7 failed to head off the economic downturn of 2007-08, which led to the rise of the G20. In the short span of its existence, the G20 has provided a degree of confidence, by promoting open markets, and stimulus, preventing a collapse of the global financial system.
Need for a new institution
The world is in a state of disorder. The global economy has stalled and COVID-19 will inevitably create widespread distress. Nations need dexterity and resilience to cope with the current flux, as also a revival of multilateralism, for they have been seeking national solutions for problems that are unresolvable internally. Existing international institutions have proven themselves unequal to these tasks. A new mechanism might help in attenuating them.
It would be ideal to include in it the seven future leading economies, plus Germany, Japan, the U.K., France, Mexico, Turkey, South Korea, and Australia. If Mr. Trump loses his re-election bid, this might have to wait for a few years. The 2005 ad hoc experiment by Prime Minister Tony Blair in bringing together the G7 and the BRICS countries was a one-off.
A new international mechanism will have value only if it focuses on key global issues.
India would be vitally interested in three: international trade, climate change, and the COVID-19 crisis. A related aspect is how to push for observing international law and preventing the retreat from liberal values on which public goods are predicated.
Global public health and the revival of growth and trade in a sustainable way (that also reduces the inequalities among and within nations) would pose a huge challenge.
Second order priorities for India would be cross-cutting issues such as counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation. An immediate concern is to ensure effective implementation of the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention and the prevention of any possible cheating by its state parties by the possible creation of new microorganisms or viruses by using recombinant technologies.
On regional issues, establishing a modus vivendi with Iran would be important to ensure that it does not acquire nuclear weapons and is able to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Gulf and West Asia. The end state in Afghanistan would also be of interest to India, as also the reduction of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.
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