The G7 ,G8 & 

G 20

World Economic Forum

Trans Pacific Partnership

G-7, or “group of seven,” mainly has to do with politics. After the first oil shock of the 1970s, economies across the world were suffering, and global leaders wanted to do something about it. So, a group of government officials decided to meet and figure things out. Members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission represent the EU at G-7 summits.

In 1998, Russia joined the club, making it the G-8, but it was kicked out in 2014 after it annexed Crimea. So now we’re back to G-7. However, Trump said Friday that Russia should be reinstated in G-7 talks.

The G-20 is all about money and has 20 members. Its members represent 85 percent of global economic output, and it’s a little less exclusive than the G-7. The members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Both summits have traditionally drawn outrage and protest among activist groups demonstrating against capitalism, patriarchy and racism.

The Group of 7 is an informal bloc of industrialised democracies – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom – that meets annually to discuss issues such as global economic governance, international security, and energy policy. The European Union also attends meetings.

Originating from an ad hoc gathering of finance ministers in 1973, the G7 has since become a formal, high-profile venue for discussing and coordinating solutions to major global issues, especially in the areas of trade, security, economics, and climate change. Each member state's head of government or head of state, along with the Commission President and Council President of the European Union, meet annually at the G7 summit; other high-ranking officials of the G7 and the EU meet throughout the year. Representatives of other states and international organizations are often invited as guests, with Russia having been a formal member (as part of the Group of Eight) from 1997 to 2014. 

The G7/8 does not include all of the world’s major economic powers, with China a notable absentee. Instead, the group’s membership is made up of like- minded historical Western allies. The Council on Foreign Relations has described the G7/8 as a ‘steering group for the West’. The group now meets annually to monitor and address developments in the world economy. Informal forums like the G7/8  are different from IGOs because of the following:

■ The G7/8 has no formal rules. The UN, by contrast, has the UN Charter, which clearly sets out its purpose and processes.

■ It can invite any states, IGOs or NGOs to its meetings.

■ It can choose to remove any of its members from meetings, if the presidency state has not invited them to the meetings. In this sense, it has a flexible membership of like-minded allies.

The organisation represents many of the advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund, making it an important group; the G7 countries represent nearly 50 per cent of net global wealth. A very high net-national-wealth and a very high Human Development Index are the main requirements to be a member of this group. The G7/G8 started off as the Group of Six, which was formed in 1975 as a forum for discussion of the global economy in the wake of the turbulence created by the Oil Crisis of 1973 and the end of fixed exchange rates. The initiative came from the French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. Its original membership was France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA. Canada joined shortly aſterwards in 1976 – making it the Group of Seven – and Russia in 1998, to become the Group of Eight. However, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 led to Russia’s suspension, and the group reverted to being the G7.

The G7 is not a permanent organisation and there are no formal criteria for membership. There are annual rounds of meetings under a rotating presidency. Member states take it in turns to preside over and host each annual round of meetings, and it is the responsibility of the presidency to set the agenda.

The focus of G7 meetings is primarily economic but, since the 1980s, it has expanded its remit to include foreign and security issues and energy policy.

One of the strengths of the G7 is that it provides a forum where states can discuss common concerns openly and honestly in a way they could not do in other forums, such as the United Nations. The group is small enough for intimate discussions between leaders and finance ministers, which makes it easier to reach agreement. The G7 represents states with similar political and economic systems – liberal democratic capitalist economies – which facilitates consensus.

Another strength is that the G7 has made a number of important interventions in global politics. In 1999, it cancelled $100 billion of bilateral and multilateral debt. It went several steps further by doubling its aid to Africa and cancelling all debts of 19 countries owed to the IMF and the World Bank in 2005 at the Gleaneagles Summit in Scotland. In 2008, the member states met to co-ordinate their responses to the global financial crisis. Since 2014, the G7 has placed pressure on Russia to withdraw from Crimea and stop supporting Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

However, the G7 has several weaknesses. What started as a rich countries’ club to promote neo-liberal economic policy (to the detriment of developing economies, according to some critics) has become less relevant. It was formed in the 1970s by what were then the richest countries in the world. China and India have since broken into the top ten of the most economically developed countries in the world. At its peak in the late 1980s, G7 members produced nearly 70 per cent of the world’s GDP, but that has declined to under 50 per cent. China and India are members of the Group of 20 (G20 – see below), a rival economic organisation that has become the key focus for dealing with the global financial crises.

Anti-globalisation protesters also criticise the G7 for its apparent inability or unwillingness to deal effectively with poverty, inequality and climate change. It has cancelled much of the debt of developing countries, but the gap continues to widen between them and developed countries. Despite sanctions and public condemnation, Russia continues to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine and seems unconcerned about its exclusion from the G7, probably because it continues to enjoy membership of the G20, now generally thought to be a more important international forum.

Significant G7/8 decisions include the following.

■ 2002: the G7 becomes the G8. This was the first meeting of the G8, having been expanded to include Russia. Russia is invited to host a G8 summit for the first time.

■ 2006: Russia hosts its first G8 summit in St Petersburg. Before the summit, other G8 leaders were critical of Russia’s record on human rights and Russia responded by criticising Western ‘colonialist rhetoric’. Energy security, including increasing dependence of other G8 members on Russian energy supplies, was a key focus of the summit. Early discussions were also held regarding Russia’s membership of the WTO, which was completed in 2012.

■ 2007: the Gleneagles Summit during the UK presidency — G8 leaders agreed to major debt cancellation to heavily indebted poor countries.

Arguments for reform suggest that the G7/8 should widen its membership to include other significant emerging and established economic powers. Attempts have been made to broaden the G7/8 by including the so-called Outreach Five, consisting of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. However, these attempts have been devalued by the existence of the G20, which already exists as a wider group and has become more powerful, taking a much more significant role in international efforts to address the global financial crisis, for example.

In defence of the G7/8, it is argued that a narrower group of like-minded states is better able to come to agreement and make decisions.

The Group of 20

The G20 was established in 1999 but its first summit was not until 2008. The purpose of the organisation is to promote international financial stability and replace the G7 as the main economic forum of wealthy nations.

The G20 is more diverse than the G7, with a membership including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the USA from the American continent, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea from Asia, Saudi Arabia from the Middle East, South Africa and Australia – the sole representatives from Africa and Oceania – and France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and the UK from Europe. The G20 works closely with a number of international organisations including the UN, IMF, World Bank, OECD, ILO and WTO. The twentieth member is the EU. The G20 represents two-thirds of the world’s population, 85 per cent of global GDP and 75 per cent of world trade.

The G20 has no formal organisation or membership criteria. Instead, the main work of the organisation is conducted through a series of meetings. However, the G20 has created the Financial Stability Board to co-ordinate the activities of national financial regulatory bodies with international bodies to improve financial regulation. There is a rotating presidency, held for a year.

The member state holding the presidency co-ordinates the year’s activities in conjunction with its immediate predecessor and successor. The main annual meeting is hosted by the member state holding the presidency. All member states have equal representation, whatever their wealth or size.

Its membership represents both established and emerging economies which, together, account for almost two-thirds of the world population, more than four-fifths of gross world product and three-quarters of world trade.

■ The G20 also has the key economic IGOs attend all of its meetings. All of the Bretton Woods Institutions attend, along with the UN and the EU. This is very different to the G7/8, where only the EU is a regular additional member in attendance.

■ Meetings usually take place annually, with a rotating presidency, as is the case for the G7/8. The presidency state has considerable power over which additional states or other international organisations it invites and the agenda for that year’s summit.

Strengths and weaknesses

One of the G20’s strengths is that, since 2009, it has become a more significant body than the G7. The G7/8 states were hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, and realised they needed the help of developing states to weather the storm.

At the Washington (November 2008) and London (April 2009) summits – the G20’s first meetings – a package of measures to aid economic recovery was agreed, with a fund of $500 billion to stimulate economic growth. Agreement was reached over the expansion of the IMF’s borrowing programme, and voting shares in the IMF and World Bank were adjusted in favour of the developing countries. At the Pittsburgh summit in September 2009, members agreed that the G20 would replace the G7/8 as the main forum for economic co-operation.

However, the G20 has weaknesses. As with the G7/8, not all of its members are the richest countries in the world. Argentina, Indonesia and Mexico rank outside of the top 20. The G20 is also criticised for its lack of transparency and accountability. There is no formal charter and the most important meetings are held behind closed doors, and at remote locations, to deter protesters.

The World Economic Forum

The WEF is an annual conference of world leaders, business leaders, IGOs, NGOs and economists held in Davos, Switzerland each January. The forum allows all of these actors to contribute to setting the agenda for world economic issues. World leaders, for example, give key speeches setting out their government’s policies. In 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke at the WEF in a bid to reassure the global economic community that the UK was open for business and would make a success of Brexit. Some criticise the Davos get-together of the great and the good of the world economy as elitist and out of touch. It does not have a set agenda and is more a forum for discussion than formal agreement. It is also seen as almost a celebration of the capitalist economic model, although China has nevertheless been attending since 1979.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

The TPP is a trade agreement between the states of the Pacific Rim, excluding China. The deal was agreed in 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. It includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the USA. Together, the member states amount to 40% of global GDP.

The agreement reduces tariff barriers to trade in the region, cutting 18,000 tariffs. In one of his firsts acts as president, Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, stating that membership would have lost US manufacturing jobs to lower-wage nations in Asia. Refusing to be a member of the TPP would therefore, according to Trump, represent ‘a great thing for the American worker’. Those who defend the TPP say that it is designed to create a free-trade zone that will reduce economic protectionism by reducing tariffs on imports. This would therefore encourage greater trade, which would, in turn, generate greater wealth in the region. In terms of geostrategy it would also encourage greater unity among states in the region against China’s growing economic influence.

Examine the similarities in terms of membership, purpose and effectiveness of the G7 and G20 organisations and their impact on global politics.  (12 Marks June 2022)            AO1 (6 marks), AO2 (6 marks) 

Stronger responses tended to tackle both institutions in parallel as they set out the similarities between the G7 and the G20. Unfortunately, a small number of candidates seemed to miss the reference to similarities and instead focussed on simply describing the two institutions or even focussing on their differences exclusively. Stronger responses also noted the emphasis on similarities in terms of membership, purpose, and effectiveness as well as tackling the impact on global politics. There were some excellent examples used in the development of the points raised. (Examiner's Comments)


The organisations seem similar in that both organisations appear to allow for the dominance of a narrow and similar section of states in global politics who collectively hold a significant proportion of global wealth

 • The organisations seem similar in that both organisations appear to have a primary focus on management of the global economy to attempt to ensure economic growth and prosperity which included responding to the 2008 economic downturn

 • The organisations seem similar in that they appear to operate as intergovernmental rather than supranational institutions and are therefore, arguably, similarly ineffective as a consequence

 • The organisations seem similar in that they have both been criticised by numerous groups including the political left who consider that they support globalisation and benefit a global elite • The organisations seem similar in that they both appear to have widened their remit from economic to wider issues which also enhances their impact on global politics