Search Penny Hill Press

Friday, August 27, 2010

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

Rebecca M. Nelson
Analyst in International Trade and Finance

The G-20 is an international forum for discussing and coordinating economic policies. The members of the G-20 include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. 

The G-20 was established in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s to allow major advanced and emerging-market countries to coordinate economic policies. Until 2008, G-20 meetings were held at the finance minister level, and remained a less prominent forum than the G-7, which held meetings at the leader level (summits). With the onset of the global financial crisis, the G-7 leaders decided to convene the G-20 leaders to discuss and coordinate policy responses to the crisis. 

To date, the G-20 leaders have held four summits: November 2008 in Washington, DC; April 2009 in London; September 2009 in Pittsburgh; and June 2010 in Toronto. The G-20 leaders have agreed that the G-20 is now the premier forum for international economic coordination, effectively supplanting the G-7's role as such. 

Over the course of the four G-20 summits held to date, the G-20 leaders have made commitments on a variety of issue areas. In the United States, implementing some of these commitments would require legislation. Issues that are likely to influence future policy debates and/or the legislative agenda include: a new international framework to monitor and coordinate economic policies, aimed at correcting global imbalances and promoting economic growth; financial regulatory reform and harmonization; voting reform at the IMF; increased funding of multilateral development banks (MDBs); concluding the WTO Doha multilateral trade negotiations; and elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. 

Discussions at the Toronto summit in June 2010 were largely a continuation of previous summits, There is some anticipation for more ambitious discussions at the next G-20 summit, scheduled for Seoul, South Korea in November 2010. 

Effectiveness of the G-20:
As the G-20 adapts to its new role as the premier forum for international cooperation, the effectiveness of the G-20 moving forward is being debated. Some anticipate that the G-20 will be an effective steering body in the global economy, pointing to its success in coordinating countries and international organizations at the height of the financial crisis. Others are more pessimistic about the G-20's effectiveness in future summits, suggesting that the G-20 as a group is too heterogeneous to achieve real coordination. Still others suggest a middle ground, that the G-20 will be effective in some instances but not others. For example, they argue the G-20 could be an effective body in times of economic duress, when countries view cooperation as critical, but less effective when the economy is strong and the need for cooperation feels less pressing. Likewise, it is suggested that the G-20 will be effective at facilitating economic coordination over some issues, such as monetary policy where finance ministers largely exercise autonomous control. At the same time, the G-20 could find it more difficult to coordinate in other areas, such as fiscal policies, where implementation of commitments depends on a number of actors, including national legislatures in many countries

Date of Report: August 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R40977
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.