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The G8: Does size matter?

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The G8: Does size matter?


The G8 is an exclusive club, formed in 1975, with six members at first, then seven and now including Russia. But does it still have a purpose?

Apart from photo opportunities, what is the point when the influence of developed countries on the world economy is diminishing?

Major emerging countries are noticeable by their absence, according to analyst Alan S. Alexandroff of the G20 Research Group.

“The Chinas, Indias and Brazils have become significant actors in the global economy”, he said, describing it as “a little odd” that they are not involved.

In 1990, the US represented a quarter of the world economy with Brazil, Russia, India and China, together, only accounting for 10 per cent. Yet by 2014, the so-called BRIC countries are set to overtake Uncle Sam.

Ever since an economic crisis that the G8 was not able to predict or avoid, the institution has faced growing criticism.

So does the future lie in the G20, incorporating big emerging economies with a scope spanning the likes of Saudi Arabia, Mexico and South Africa? While certainly more in keeping with changing trends, could the bigger body be too cumbersome? And should the G8 be redefining its role?

Journalist Patrick Wintour of Britain’s ‘The Guardian’ newspaper says: “Maybe they need to rethink what the G8 does and go back to what it was originally intended to do which was not to issue massive communiques about every world event in conferences that go on and on. They would actually just sit and get to know each other personally and build up a level of personal trust.”

The G8 summit provides a pretext and opportunity for the maintenance of bilateral ties. Reason enough, say some, to preserve the institution.

Amid strained relations between Paris and Washington over the US-led invasion of Iraq, the 2003 summit in the French town of Evian was a chance for Presidents Chirac and Bush to talk, explained journalist Alain Faujas from France’s ‘Le Monde’ newspaper.

Despite the media hype, the thousands of participants, journalists, demonstrators, and police out in force, the G8’s identity crisis cannot be ignored.

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