Why the G-20 matters and why it doesn’t

Why the G-20 matters and why it doesn’t
Why the G-20 matters and why it doesn’t
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Chitra Subramaniam | The News Minute | November 11, 2014 | 06:28 pm IST

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi sets off on his three nation ten-day trip to Myanmar, Fiji and Australia, all eyes are riveted on the G-20 meeting and his interactions with the leaders of this group at a time when there are major shifts and positioning of economic and military interests.

Shorn of verbiage, the G-20 is a club which has a mix of the worlds developed and developing economies that make-up for two-thirds of the its population and over 85 percent of the global GDP. Sounds solid and fierce, which it is, depending on which compartment you are in and where you are going at a certain point in your economy. The summits bring together heads of state and government as well as Central bankers who talk for two days, sometimes more.

Argentina, Australia (where the summit will be held this time) Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union make up the club. However, the G-20 also meets as G-7 with Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France and Germany and every now and then quarrel over allowing Russia to be part of the party as happened when they met last summer in Paris with French President Francois Hollande was waltzing between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In response to the G-7, developing countries had launched the G-77 of the poor and very poor countries. That grouping died a natural death as most countries were linked to the top tier of the G-7 for resources and cash to develop which not only made them suspicious of each other but also of the invisible hands of the super club. And then China entered the scene skewing every possible calculation and got away with blue murder leaving the G-7 to make patronizing claims to protect human rights and individual freedoms, but the lure of the Chinese market was too large to ignore for a few deaths.

And all these countries, irrespective of their G’s are opposed to India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over a trade deal that speaks to food storage and security for Indians. If all this sounds confusing, rest assured, it is not. It is a game, one that has to be played with presence and absence, not absent-mindedly because as all such games, trade including military trade is at the heart of the whole thing. Till recently, India’s left hand rarely knew what the right hand was doing.

Calling the G-20 a farce, would be very cruel because it is not one. It is among the better talking shops the world has. One of its pet peeves is corruption where it has put together a robust anti-corruption discourse launched at its 2010 summit in Toronto. This process has been followed up with many action taken papers, roundtables and meetings all pledging to make international business corruption free. Just like you don’t have to be a member of any club to find out where you stand socially or politically, you don’t have to be a part of the G-20 to make any point. But it is worth going just to see what others are doing and talking which is why everyone is there in the first place.

In the first class compartment of the group are countries whose parts live on black money like United Kingdom (Guernsey, British Virgin Islands), Italy, Russia France, to name a few. The other including India go into the second class compartment. The entire process is overseen by two chairs of the G-20’s anti-corruption leadership divided between Australia and Italy who serve as co-chairs.
Italy. Now that is cruel.

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