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It has been suggested that the G20 will have two further effects, a ‘competitive’ and a ‘rebalancing’ effect (Martinez-Diaz and Woods, 2009, p.1). As to the former, it is expected that formal bodies such as the International Monetary and Finance Committee of the IMF and the Development Committee of the World Bank now have to compete with G20, as the latter tries to gain authority on these matters.21 The ‘rebalancing’ effect consists in bringing in emerging economies into agenda-setting and coordination discussions. Furthermore, it may serve ‘as a catalyst for reform of formal international organizations’ in the same direction (Martinez-Diaz and Woods, 2009, p.3). This has most recently been highlighted by the seizure of the urgent matter of IMF reform at the Pittsburgh and Seoul Summits (‘The Pittsburgh Summit’, 2009, paragraph 21, ‘G20 Seoul Summit Declaration’, 2010, paragraph 16), addressing the issue of overrepresentation of European countries in the IMF and the simultaneous underrepresentation of other States (Smaghi, 2006, p.267; Alan Ahearne and B Eichengreen, 2007, pp.128–129; Pier Carlo Padoan, 2008, p.11).
Legitimacy Despite its limited composition the G20 is a rather inclusive club compared with the heavily criticised G7/8, which reflected an older power balance as well as a global divide between the West and the rest (Kirton, 2001, p.143). G20 members account for more than 85% of global GDP, 80% of world trade (including intra-EU trade), and two-thirds of global population. Muslim countries have also been included in this new forum. 22 At the same time all major developed and emerging economies are represented from all regions of the world. The exception is Africa, which is only represented by South Africa. This has been considered problematic since South Africa can hardly purport to speak on behalf of such a vast and heterogeneous continent (Suruma, 2010, pp.13–14; Woods, 2010). Recognizing this deficiency, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has suggested offering G20-membership to the African Union (2009, p.68). Still, it is justified to say that G20 membership mirrors current international power balances and politico-economic realities (Krotz and Maher, 2009).
Despite the above the G20 has invited significant criticism from two fronts. It has been suggested that the developing world continues to be underrepresented with a forum that continues to be dominated by the same old players (Khor, 2009; Muchhala, 2009). Another line of criticism suggests that the G20 is not genuinely inclusive but rather constitutes an effort of the relatively declining Prior to the fifth G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010, a G20 High-level Development Conference was organized on 13 October 2010 in Seoul. The Seoul Summit Document included a paragraph entitled ‘The Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth’, which included a ‘Multi-year Action Plan on Development’.
These are Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Jan Wouters and Thomas Ramopoulos
Western powers to maintain their global role by adding some members to an exclusive club (Woods, 2010; Cooper, 2010, p.472).
Although these concerns are difficult to dismiss completely, they do not meet with our unconditional agreement. It is correct that genuine legitimacy – i.e. primarily representativeness – will be the decisive factor of the success and longevity of the G20 (Jan Wouters, Sterkx, et al., 2011, p.147). However, representativeness on the international plane cannot be construed as bearing exactly the same meaning as adequate and meaningful representation within democratic States. We would rather argue that just representation on the international plane is determined by both quantitative (representation of regions and populations) and qualitative criteria (‘fair and equitable treatment and rules, and, above all, a sense of inclusiveness and meaningful participation’, Beeson and Bell, 2009, p.73). The former are fulfilled by the G20 with the important exception of Africa. The qualitative criteria are harder to verify. It has been submitted, though, that emerging economies have left their mark in the deliberations and declarations of the post-2009 invigorated G20 in the fields of global growth, financial regulations, reforms of the IFIs and inclusion of new items in the agenda, such as development (Woods, 2011, pp.69–70). Further, in light of the indisputable economic ascendancy of the emerging economies, which inevitably elevates their position in relation to the established industrialized states, they are prone to assume an even more prominent role in global economic governance influencing significantly the G20 agenda and decision-making (Chin, 2011). Lastly, the fact that the G20 Presidency will be held in the coming years by states not belonging to the G7, will inevitably allow these to have an important input in the agenda setting of the group.
As to the issue of transparency, the record of the G20 is mixed at best and will possibly remain so.
Public access to the substance of the work of the G20 is only possible after the end of the negotiations.
The country holding the Chair of the G20 posts the Group’s meetings and work programme on a dedicated website (‘Official Website of the G20’, 2012, for the Seoul Summit, ‘Official Website of the Seoul Summit’, 2011). The public is informed about what was discussed and agreed immediately after the meeting of ministers and governors or Heads of States and Governments has ended through a communiqué published by the G20. This communiqué records the agreements reached and the outlined measures to be taken. Stakeholders are prevented from participating in the negotiations although their views may randomly be asked by the G20 Presidency, as was the case with the French Presidency that convened the B20 and L20 Summits. Thus it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the public is to a great extent kept in the dark until after the end of the political process.
In addition to the above considerations for the G20 to gain legitimacy, it needs to prove its effectiveness. This point should be handled with care. It should be taken into consideration that the G20 aims to steer global economic governance in its capacity as a deliberative rather than a decisionmaking body (see also Carin, 2011, where he insists that the G20 should be judged ‘as an agenda setter and steering committee.’). It is not an institution that implements, since this is the work of established international organizations and instruments (Woods, 2011, p.73). It would therefore be misguided to define effectiveness as if the G20 were a full-fledged international organization. One should also acknowledge that the so-called trade-off between legitimacy and effectiveness is not at play here: on the contrary, only through the legitimacy enjoyed thanks to the inclusion of emerging economies can the G20 ever be effective. The crisis has served to illustrate above all that a smaller directorate of likeminded states cannot steer global economic governance. Rather, the effectiveness of the G20 as an indication of a results-based legitimacy should be ‘the degree to which it improves the way globalization works in the here and now and in the way it prepares for the road ahead.’ (Martin, 2011, p.16). In this regard the G20 has been relatively successful until now. However, the outcome of the 2011 Cannes Summit seems to be mixed at best. On a number of serious issues, such as the need for the promotion of balanced and sustainable growth, the fight against corruption or the concrete decision to expand the resources of the IMF, no specific action plans were agreed upon by the G20 leaders.
The G20 and Global Economic Governance: Lessons from Multilevel European Governance?
To sum up, the G20 being a novel and constantly evolving creature in the international system, it is difficult to reach a definitive conclusion as to its legitimacy. In order to overcome this analytical hurdle we opted for a discussion that revolved around the issues of representativeness, transparency and effectiveness as the major indicators of legitimacy of an organ on the international level. Our analysis has illustrated the irrefutable shortcomings of the G20. Africa is ignored but for a sole exception in the composition of the forum. Still, the composition of the G20 makes it a significant improvement from previous power constellations in that it reflects the current international power balances, thereby giving a meaningful opportunity to significant states from all regions of the world to co-opt in the steering of global economic governance. Further, the political negotiations taking place within the G20 are not transparent to the public which is only presented with the compromisory outcome of these, whereas stakeholders play only a marginal role in the negotiations. Lastly, although the G20 has been effective in its role as a crisis committee up until now, the outcome of the 2011 Cannes Summit raises some questions as to the group’s continued determination and capacity to steer global economy successfully out of its current state. Grounded in the above it is our submission that the G20 enjoys some degree of legitimacy whose existence is predicated upon the continued and more substantial fulfilment of the criteria of representation, transparency and effectiveness.
Reforming the G20: Insights Gained from Multilevel European Governance Earlier on in this article we have seen that he development of multilevel European governance structures has been a unique and rather arduous process. Nonetheless, it offers an excellent opportunity to study the difficulties, shortcomings and chances offered by such an effort on the international plane.
This exercise is not purely academic. On the contrary, it corresponds to urgent practical needs. As a consequence of the most recent economic crisis states are confronted with the necessity to cooperate internationally on economic issues in order to provide global public goods. If they are to be successful in this endeavour, there is a need to examine previous relevant efforts and draw valuable conclusions from them.
The G20 has been the preferred forum for states to coordinate their actions in the effort to offset the repercussions of the most recent economic crisis and further prevent future similar crises from occurring. Thus its continued existence depends on its successful steering of the global economy out of the crisis. However, it is unclear how a possible institutionalization of the G20 as a ‘global economic governance executive’ would affect this effort. European multilevel governance offers invaluable insights in this respect.
Primarily it should be noted that an institutionalized multi-level global governance structure would fall prey to the constant assertion of national sovereignty when fundamental national interests would be at stake or when a State would read its relevant international obligations differently. Such a development is especially to be expected in an institutionalized system consisting of not like-minded actors with very divergent interests, cultures and political and legal traditions. Such a deadlock is often overcome in the EU – which is anyway much more homogenous than the G20 – thanks to its unique mixture of intergovernmental and supranational players like, in the latter case, the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. To just take the role of the judiciary, however, experience at global level has shown that only in very limited areas – the WTO stands out as the most successful exception - consensus is possible for entrusting the settlement of disputes to an independent judiciary (for the obvious limitations of the effectiveness of this mechanism see above note 3). Given the constantly increasing number of issues addressed by the G20 a consensus is extremely difficult to reach. In any case, neither the European Court of Justice nor the WTO Panels and Appellate Body have the competence to address the most pressing governance problems in the EU or in global trade. It would be misleading to expect judicial organs to fill in gaps of governance instead of governments.
Jan Wouters and Thomas Ramopoulos
In addition an institutionalization of the G20 through treaty-making, de jure placing it above IFIs, would seem counter-productive. This is the case not only because, as was observed above, these institutions are already de facto complying with the G20 decisions but for the further reason that the G20 would lose all the advantages which an informal forum of Heads of State or Government offers to the process of negotiating, compromising and effectively implementing reform at international level.
Such an institutionalized system would quickly become rigid and irresponsive to urgent needs.
Understanding this, David Cameron in his report to the G20 Cannes Summit praised ‘[t]he power of informality’ of the G20, which allows it to react ‘quickly, flexibly and effectively’ to global economic needs (Cameron, 2011, p.14). The G20 endorsed this view in its Cannes Summit Declaration, insisting that the group ‘is part of the overall framework of international governance’ (‘Cannes Summit Final Declaration’, 2011, paragraph 91) and refusing in practice to follow recent proposals in the direction of further institutionalization of the G20 (Hillman, 2010, p.28; see also Palais-Royal Initiative, 2011;
‘Reform blueprint gives G20 authority over IMF’, 2011, ‘G20 ponders more inclusive governance’, 2011).