What Is the G-20? and What Are the Issues?

By Browne, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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What Is the G-20? and What Are the Issues?

Browne, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

So, what is the Group of 20?

Why is this group important?

And why is the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh?

First, some history.

After World War II, the globe was divided into the two massively armed camps. The West was composed of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) and ANZUS (the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty).

It faced the East, composed of China and the Warsaw Pact nations.

Following the collapse of the Communist Empire, the political glue of fear holding these opposing camps together weakened. Individual nations again started to paddle their own political canoes.

At that time, the world's wealth was divided broadly between the old industrial nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and those of the European Union (termed the "North"), and the countries of the new, resource-rich nations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, New Zealand, OPEC, Russia and much of the Far East (termed the "South").

To protect its elevated lifestyle and particularly its agricultural base, the North instituted protective tariffs. These barriers to free trade were resented deeply by the South, which persuaded the North to negotiate under the Doha round of the World Trade Organization.

Following a series of negotiations among the Group of Seven (G- 7) nations, the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers was formed. Its first meeting was held in Berlin in 1999.

The G-20 is composed of the G-7 nations along with 12 other countries, as well as the European Union to represent its member nations not already included. In addition, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank are represented.

Together, the G-20 members represent 66 percent of the world's population, 80 percent of world trade and 85 percent of global gross national product. Clearly, the G-20 is an important body, made more so by the attendance of the leaders of member nations at recent meetings.

In 2003, the theme of the G-20 meeting in Mexico was "Building and Sustaining Prosperity." It focused on the achievement of "sustained growth" and the reform of global energy and resource commodity markets.

In April 2009, the British hosts introduced an extended agenda to cope with the threatened economic catastrophe. This included the coordination of macro-economic actions to revive the global economy, reform of the financial sector and systems and reform of international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

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What Is the G-20? and What Are the Issues?


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