Calling the existing Group of Seven (G-7) club a “very outdated group of countries”, US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he wanted to include India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia in the group; although it was unclear whether he wanted the expansion to be permanent.
Trump has also deferred this year’s summit, the 46th G-7, saying, “I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world.” The summit was scheduled to be held through June 10-12 at Camp David in the US.
The Group of 7
The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues. Canada joined the group in 1976, and the European Union began attending in 1977.
Initially formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues, the G-7 forum has deliberated about several challenges over the decades, such as the oil crashes of the 1970s, the economic changeover of ex-Soviet bloc nations, and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking.
The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997. The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Since his election in 2016, President Trump has suggested on several occasions that Russia be added again, given what he described as Moscow’s global strategic importance.
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The G-7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding. The rise of India, China, and Brazil over the past few decades has reduced the G-7’s relevance, whose share in global GDP has now fallen to around 40%.
How the G-7 summit works
The G-7 nations meet at annual summits that are presided over by leaders of member countries on a rotational basis. The summit is an informal gathering that lasts two days, in which leaders of member countries discuss a wide range of global issues. The host country typically gets to invite dignitaries from outside the G-7 to attend the Summit.
The groundwork for the summit, including matters to be discussed and follow-up meetings, is done by the “sherpas”, who are generally personal representatives or members of diplomatic staff such as ambassadors. The sherpa for Prime Minister Modi at last year’s summit was former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.
G-7 and G-20
The G-20 is a larger group of countries, which also includes G7 members. The G-20 was formed in 1999, in response to a felt need to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns.
Apart from the G-7 countries, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
Together, the G-20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy. As opposed to the G-7, which discusses a broad range of issues, deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets. India is slated to host a G-20 summit in 2022.
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