By (Mrs) Amb Narinder Chauhan
The G20 is composed of most of the world’s largest economies, including both industrialized and developing nations; it accounts for around 80% of the gross world output (GWP), 75% of international trade, two thirds of global population, and 60% of the world’s land area. It plays an important role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. It comprises 19 countries plus the EU including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US. G20,
The G20 was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises. Since 2008, it has convened at least once a year, with summits involving each member’s head of government or state, finance minister, or foreign minister, and other high officials; the EU is represented by the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Other countries, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations are invited to attend the summits, some on a permanent basis.
At the 2009 summit, the G20 declared itself the primary venue for international economic and financial cooperation. The group’s stature has risen during the subsequent decade, and it is recognized by analysts as exercising considerable global influence. It is also criticized for its limited membership, lack of enforcement powers, and for the alleged undermining of existing international institutions. Summits are often met with protests particularly by anti-globalization groups.
The G20’s major achievements include strengthening the role of emerging economies, reforming international financial institutions, increase in discipline and tightening oversight over national financial institutions and regulators, and improving the quality of financial regulations.
The limitations of the G20 lie in the inability to arrest the drift towards mercantilism on the part of the world’s biggest trading nations-USA and China. It lost focus on global financial issues, digressed to issues such as climate change mitigation, women’s empowerment, bilateral trade issues, sustainable development etc.
In assuming the G20 Presidency on December 1, India, the fifth largest economy, has an unprecedented chance to check its clout and credibility in tackling the fragmented global order. The war in Ukraine, heightened geopolitical tensions due to the rise of China, the Covid pandemic revival, global slowdown, the fractured world economy will test India’s leadership and its ability to revive the G20’s credibility in an otherwise declining era of multilateralism.
The war in Ukraine and its implications for global food and energy security figured high at the Bali talks last year but remained inconclusive. India with its close relations with both Russia and US remains in the unique position to bridge the East West divide and bring an isolated Russia into over 200 G20 meetings that it is hosting, culminating in the Leaders’ Summit on September 9 and 10 this year. This will necessarily overburden the G20 agenda by dovetailing its economic cooperation platform with security issues that the UN and related bodies have failed to address.
Further, India finds itself at the center of troika of G20 Presidencies-Indonesia, India, and Brazil- all of them emerging economies, thus, giving a greater voice for the concerns of the Global South to be heard on issues such as Climate Change, trade facilitation and health care resilience support. At climate talks, India has sought technological and financial support for developing countries to enable them to make the transition to greener technologies; at the WTO, India has lobbied for lower tariff and non-tariff barriers for vulnerable economies, and a patent waiver for COVID 19 vaccines; India is working towards adopting a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) stimulus package to provide these governments with investments and liquidity, offering debt relief and restructuring.
Continuing to underscore these issues, India has identified six shared priorities for its Presidency in areas including public digital goods and digital infrastructure; climate action and climate finance; sustainable and inclusive energy transition; accelerated progress on sustainable development goals; women-led development; and reforms of multilateral institutions. PM Modi has already given the mantra, ‘data for development’ that digital access can bring about socio-economic transformation in countries in the spirit of the overarching theme of `Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’- the world is one family.
For India to take up the responsibility for the G20 at the time is truly exceptional. The world is under great economic stress on the supply chains. There is very strong political polarisation, even getting all the major countries to sit around the table itself requires a lot. EAM Shri Jaishankar has said India will ensure that it emerges as a voice for societies and countries that would otherwise get left behind and not have somebody else to speak for them. India is going to take the G20 across the country to more than 55 cities. India will ensure that the diversity of every region, every culture, every local cuisine, and local products will be on display to the world. Tens and thousands of officials and leaders will have an opportunity to see the length and the breadth of the country. It would, in a sense, be the marketing of India to the world. The Summit will show how India has become central to the world and how important the world has become to India. The G20 presidency indeed is a ‘big deal for India’.
Author is former Indian Ambassador.
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