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|Written by Kendall R. Giberson|
|Monday, 28 January 2008 19:00|
When speaking of elite circles of power, the one that has a lot of influence is the Group of Eight, or G8. Forget about the Freemasons, Skull & Bones, or the Knights Templar that conspiracy theorists point at as constituting clandestine meetings of elites that determine major events in the world today. The G8 involves the leaders of the seven largest industrialized democratic countries plus Russia, meeting yearly to discuss issues of economic and political significance that affect the entire world.
The G8 began in 1975 as the G6 and included France, Italy, West Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the height of the Cold War, this could have been seen as a classic realist response to the threat of communism to Western democracies. Soon after, Canada became a member and in 1997, Russia was included in the summit.
The question that has arisen in recent years is: has the G8 become too exclusive?
The member countries represent 2/3 of the world’s economy but just 1/7 of the globe’s population. Additionally, the need for the most influential economies in the world to ‘circle the wagons’ has lessened as the world economy has expanded beyond regional trade zones to include former political enemies as trading partners. Moreover, an increasing number of poor countries have become more prosperous and, as a result, larger players on the international scene.
Politically speaking, the realist approach to international relations has suffered a blow as the richest countries are not the only ones with access to nuclear weapons nowadays. Moreover, many international initiatives abound as multilateralism has created an interdependence among richer and poorer nations (and not just the poorer nations trying to ride the coattails of rich nations or the rich nations trying to exploit the poorer nations). The G8 have had talks with other countries to discuss environmental issues such as emissions standards, and these included the five emerging economic powers China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. These meetings are known as the G8+5 summits.
Critics dispute how much can really be discussed if the dialogue is so limited. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the G8 cannot meet for two days and the G8+5 for just two hours. There also exists a larger, though less influential group of industrial nations, the Group of 20, that less attention is paid to. To ensure that the developing world is well-represented, which countries are ready to gain admission to this most exclusive of country clubs?
To begin, one should look at the criteria by which people judge a country’s economic clout. For this exercise, population (size of the domestic market), Gross Domestic Product (total value of all goods and services produced in a given year), Gross Domestic Product per capita (to gauge the affluence of the average individual), total imports and total exports (to show the amount of international trade activity) should be examined (see accompanying chart). Also, one should consider factors such as natural resources, level of industrialization, diversity of economy, and influence within a particular region of the globe.
By these standards, China stands out as the largest market and the fastest-growing economy in the world. The only problem is that it is not a democracy. The second-largest market in the world, India, is an emerging player on the international scene, though the relative poverty of the average Indian and a lack of workplace safety standards are causes for some concern. Mexico is another fast-growing economy and its citizens could enjoy prosperity levels comparable to some European countries within a generation or two. Brazil and South Africa, though not that significant on a global scale, represent the largest and most prosperous economies on their respective continents. They represent potential success stories that South America and Africa need in the hope that neighbouring countries could follow suit. Australia is an economic power in its region, but that is not saying much when comparing it to its Pacific island neighbours. If economic indicators mean anything, Spain should have been a full-fledged G8 member before Russia, and is a significant trading partner of the north African countries. One could also make the case that South Korea ought to be a member as well if one compares it to Russia. Certainly, a united, politically stable Korea would be a welcome addition in the future.
There is a distinct absence of representatives of the Islamic world here. Saudi Arabia is represented in the G20, but only due to its economic interests as it resembles nothing close to a democracy. So who are the viable candidates? Indonesia has a large market but has a poor reputation with its “sweat shop” economy. Pakistan has a huge domestic market but does little in the way of foreign trade and is a political basket case to boot. Iran has had, arguably, the best chance of being the dominant economic player in the Middle East, but has experienced little progress since its 1979 revolution. That leaves Turkey and Malaysia as the two Islamic countries with the best potential to join the world economic superpowers.
There is also a lack of African countries in this discussion given that no country besides South Africa comes close to the above noted economic criteria. Only Nigeria shows some long-term potential due to its sizeable market and natural resources. Other countries worth a mention are Argentina and Taiwan, with the former seeming on the verge of joining the superpowers for years before suffering an economic crisis, and the latter being too politically sensitive vis-à-vis China. Thailand could be a future candidate, but recent political instability hampers its case.
The existing G8 represents the present and the past global economic powers. This circle is a relatively closed one, and is a prime example of elitism at work. When such a huge number of people are affected by the economic policies of the G8, but do not have their interests represented, something is wrong. The original G6 was created over 30 years ago with the aim of discussing global economic issues amongst those who had the power to influence change and determine direction.
By granting membership to other countries representing the future economic powers, much of the developing world would have a say in international trade policies. Hence, the G8 should expand to become the G16. Membership ought to be extended to the rapidly emerging economies of China, India, Brazil and Mexico, the established, prosperous economies of Spain, South Korea and Australia, and the politically significant South Africa. In other words, these ought to be the “Next Eight” whose responsibility it is to serve as examples to other developing countries on the road to prosperity.
Well a country that are closed to any international trade could be also a country who don't need progress. The Government should think about this matter. Moreover, many international initiatives abound as multilateral ism has created an interdependence among richer and poorer nations (and not just the poorer nations trying to ride the coattails of rich nations or the rich nations trying to exploit the poorer nations. international trade