Wednesday, July 09, 2008

G8 Plus G5 Equals What?

I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the reports coming in from the G-8 meeting in Japan. The "agreement" on climate change seems to be largely diplomatic phraseology, and Japan's P.M. Fukuda didn't seem to be too clear about what the baseline would be to judge a 50 percent cut in emissions. At best, I'm willing to concede that we have a basis perhaps for a new round of negotiations, which may be better than having nothing at all--but still no major breakthrough.

In many ways, this meeting was effectively a G13--the traditional G7 "Western economies and Japan" plus Russia to make up the G8, and then the G5 of Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India and China. But for those partisans of expansion, this meeting showed that simply having all 13 states at the same table does not automatically produce sweetness and light and a new consensus. If the G8 deadlocks, expanding it to the G13 doesn't promise to reverse this trend.

Next year, in Italy, we'll see how this expanded format plays--but I think that any hopes of returning the G- process to the way it was in the 1970s--a mechanism for effective coordination--is over. The G- process is now the world's leading photo-op.

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