The Multilateralist

The G-20 becomes the G-whatever

The G-20 faces an almost irresistible pressure to expand its ranks. Doing so formally is not in the cards at the moment, but there’s ample room to add new participants. In recent years, the G-7 and G-8 periodically engaged in this kind of ad hoc group expansionism. At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, for example, the ...

The G-20 faces an almost irresistible pressure to expand its ranks. Doing so formally is not in the cards at the moment, but there’s ample room to add new participants. In recent years, the G-7 and G-8 periodically engaged in this kind of ad hoc group expansionism. At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, for example, the G-8 invited an "outreach group" of developing countries. Following in this tradition, South Korea — host of the upcoming summit — extended invitations recently to five outsiders.  

Spain gets an invitation once again as the largest economy not included in the G-20 (the Dutch, who had received invitations to previous summits, are not invited this year). Some observers believe that Spain will be added to the group formally in the coming years.  Singapore has been invited as a kind of loyal opposition; it heads up the Global Governance Group, a collection of states that has emerged as a key critic of the G-20 process and a defender of the prerogatives of smaller nations. Vietnam will have a seat as the current chair of ASEAN. Diminutive Malawi will be at the table as the chair of the African Union.  Finally, Ethiopia has been summoned as the chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development

And that’s only the sovereign invitees. A grand total of seven international organizations will be in the room, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Labor Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, and the Financial Stability Board.

All this means that there will be more than 30 principals at the summit. There may be advantages to this fit of inclusiveness, but it seems clear that the chance for meaningful informal conversations during the summit is vanishingly small. 

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