Op-Ed

Regional Voices in Global Governance: Looking to 2010 (Part IV)

Lex Rieffel

Editor’s Note: In the final part of his series in The Globalist, Lex Rieffel sees 2010 as an exceptional opportunity for change which could result in the creation of a combined G-8/G-20 Summit in mid-2011. With Barack Obama still in his first term, he predicts major shifts in membership that will better reflect the new global power structure.

Summitry in 2010 could be awkward.

Canada will be chairing the G-8 Summit and South Korea will be chairing the G-20 FM/CBG forum.

The awkwardness comes from both countries having a weak claim to membership in a lean global governance forum. Canada’s case is weak because its participation would mean that all three North American countries are members, which is untenable from the perspective of the rest of the world.

South Korea’s case is weak because Asia is over-represented, and its own population is so much smaller than the other Asian members (China, India, Indonesia and Japan).

It is, nevertheless, easy to imagine something modeled on the Washington and London summits – one hosted by Canada in the first half of 2010, and one by South Korea in the second half.

The prospects for 2011 are more intriguing for two reasons. First, it will be France’s turn to chair the G-8 Summit. Second, while no formal decision has been made, the United States could chair the G-20 FM/CBG forum.

This coincidence could present an exceptional opportunity for change. France was the first country in the G-8 rotation cycle. In other words, the G-8 Summit in Canada in 2010 completes the fifth cycle.

Instead of beginning a sixth G-8 cycle, France could have the honor of hosting the first summit of a replacement global forum. Similarly, a G-20 Summit in Korea in 2010 would complete the second cycle in the G-20 FM/CBG rotation.

Instead of beginning a third cycle, the United States could defer to France (which is in “group four” but has not yet been in the chair for the G-20 FM/CBG forum) so that France could chair a combined G-8/G-20 Summit in mid-2011.

The transition to a lean and well-balanced global summit forum, replacing both the G-8 and the G-20, could then be completed in 2012.

This is when, according to the existing G-8 Summit rotation, the United States will be the host country. With President Barack Obama still in his first term, this could be the ideal moment for such a move.

Two critical questions remain to be addressed. First, which countries should be included as “core members” of the new global summit? And second, can some formula for regional representation be developed?

With respect to core membership, the direction of change from the current G-20 FM/CBG configuration seems clear: one less European country (Italy), two fewer “old powers” (Australia and Canada), one less Latin American country (Argentina), and two fewer Asian countries (Indonesia and South Korea).

More problematical is dropping the two Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia and Turkey), and the only African country (South Africa).

This would yield a core membership of ten countries, five “old powers” (France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and United States) and five “new powers” (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Russia).

A summit forum limited to these ten countries, however, seems too restrictive. Some build-out will probably be necessary, and some flexibility. Two kinds of flexibility are possible: ad hoc selection and regional representation.

With ad hoc selection, each year’s summit chair would invite, for example, the leaders of five additional countries, depending on the issues of the day. As an example of regional representation, five regions would select a single leader to represent the non-participating countries in the region.

Author

Conveniently, the world divides easily into five “under-represented” regions: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. The regular regional leaders could be the heads of a regional organization (e.g., the President of the European Union), or they could be the heads of state or government from a dominant country (e.g., Indonesia as the natural leader of the ASEAN Community).

Part of the deal to create this new summit forum could be a review of participation every five years, with a view to making the forum more representative and efficient.

The good news is that nothing needs to be decided quickly. The debate over the geometry of a new global governance forum at the summit level can extend comfortably over the next 2-3 years as the world digs itself out of the current crisis.

Since the shape of the post-crisis world is hard to predict, there is even a strong case for putting off any serious discussion for at least a year.

In the meantime, there is plenty of urgent work to be done to restore global growth, reduce imbalances and strengthen the international financial system.

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