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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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 among major advanced and emerging economies. Congress may want to exercise oversight over the Administration’s participation in the G-20 process, including the policy commitments that Administration is making in the G-20 and the policies it is encouraging other G-20 countries to pursue. 


The G-20 rose to prominence during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, when it played an arguably influential role in coordinating international responses to the crisis. The G-20 is now considered the “premier” forum for international economic coordination, a position previously held by a smaller group of advanced economies (the Group of 7, or G-7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

G-20 leaders have annual meetings (“summits”), and meetings among lower-level officials occur more frequently. Meetings primarily focus on international economic and financial issues, although related topics are also discussed, including development, food security, and the environment, among others. Previous summits have, for example, focused on financial regulatory reform, global imbalances, funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), voting power of emerging economies in international financial institutions, and fossil fuel subsidies. 

The 2012 Summit 

The next G-20 summit is scheduled to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico in June 2012, and will be the first hosted by a Latin American government. The Mexican government has indicated that the summit will focus on the following. 

  • Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment. 
  • Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth. 
  • Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world. 
  • Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility. 
  • Promoting sustainable development, green growth, and the fight against climate change. 

Effectiveness of the G-20 

Some analysts say that while the G-20 was instrumental in coordinating the response to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, its effectiveness has diminished as the urgency of the crisis has waned. They argue that the G-20 has failed to provide adequate international leadership in key policy areas, including responses to the Eurozone crisis and forging a conclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. They also maintain that the G-20 as a group is too heterogeneous to achieve real coordination and its agenda is too ambitious. Others argue that the G-20 serves as an important institution in the international economy. They argue that the G-20 is a critical forum for discussing major policy initiatives
across major countries and encouraging greater cooperation, even if agreement on policies is not always reached. They also argue that it serves as a useful institution as a steering committee for other international organizations, such as the IMF, and that having the G-20 policy-making infrastructure in place is important for timely international responses to future crises.

Date of Report: April 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R40977Price: $29.95

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