Finance ministers and central bank officials of the G20 countries are meeting in Sydney from 20 to 23 February. Business leaders from these countries are also attending and have separate meetings.
Amongst the usual discussions at such meetings about how to achieve greater global economic stability and faster and sustained economic growth, there are other more specific agenda issues. At the Sydney meeting these include a roundtable discussion to identify practical solutions to lift infrastructure investment. They also include discussions on how to clamp down on tax avoidance through means such as transfer pricing.
The G20 meetings of finance and business leaders take place annually. There are also annual summits of heads of government (the next being in Brisbane in November 2014).
The G20 was formed in 1999 to extend the work of the G8 developed countries to include other major developed and developing countries plus the EU. In 2008/9 it played a significant role in helping devise policies to tackle the banking crisis and combat the subsequent recession. At the time there was a common purpose, which made devising common policies easier.
Since then, the importance of the G20 has waned. Partly this is because of the divergent problems and issues between members and hence the difficulty of reaching agreements. Partly it is because, to be effective, it needs to remain small but, to be inclusive, it needs to extend beyond the current 20 members. Indeed there has been considerable resentment from many countries outside the G20 that their views are not being represented. Some representatives from non-G20 countries attend meetings on an informal basis.
The following articles discuss the role of the G20 and whether it is fit for purpose.
Janet Yellen vs. the world: The issues at the G20 finance summit Globe and Mail (Canada), Iain Marlow (20/2/14)
Turning ideas into action at the G20 Business Spectator (Australia), Mike Callaghan (21/2/14)
Boosting infrastructure investment can prove G20’s value to the world The Conversation, Andrew Elek (20/2/14)
Can the G20 ever realise its potential? The Conversation, Mark Beeson (21/2/14)
G20 has failed to fulfil its promise of collaboration amid hostility The Guardian, Larry Elliott (20/2/14)
Official G20 site
G20 Priorities G20
Australia 2014 G20
- Which countries are members of the G20? Compile a list of those countries you feel ought to be members of such an organisation.
- What are the arguments for and against increasing the membership of the G20 (or decreasing it)?
- Why is Janet Yellen, Chair of the US Federal Reserve, likely to be at odds with leaders from other G20 countries, especially those from developing countries?
- Why have the tensions between G20 members increased in recent months?
- Discuss possible reforms to the IMF and the G20’s role in promoting such reforms.
- What insights can game theory provide in understanding the difficulties in reaching binding agreements at G20 meetings? Are these difficulties greater at G20 than at G8 meetings?
- Should the G20 be scrapped?
Ahead of the G20 meeting in Seoul on 11 and 12 November 2010, there has been much debate about exchange rates and the dangers of currency and trade wars. This debate has heated up since the Federal Reserve Bank announced that it was embarking on a second round of quantitative easing: a policy likely to drive down the exchange rate of the US dollar.
Writing in the Financial Times, Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, argues that co-ordinated global action needs to be taken to promote economic growth and stability. Amongst other things, this should include using gold as an ‘international reference point’.
“… the G20 should complement this growth recovery programme with a plan to build a co-operative monetary system that reflects emerging economic conditions. This new system is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and a renminbi that moves towards internationalisation and then an open capital account.
The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values. Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today.”
Would this be a return to the adjustable peg system designed at Bretton Woods in 1944 – a system that collapsed in the early 1970s? Zoellick thinks that the world should begin moving back to some sort of Bretton Woods system, with gold as the anchor against which currencies are pegged. Critics argue that this could be dangerously deflationary as the supply of gold is not something that can easily be increased. Read the articles below and consider whether such a move would be a good idea.
Zoellick seeks gold standard debate Financial Times, Alan Beattie (7/11/10)
The G20 must look beyond Bretton Woods Financial Times, Robert Zoellick (7/11/10)
World Bank chief calls for gold to anchor forex AFP on Google hosted news (8/11/10)
In Which Bob Zoellick Makes His Play for the Stupidest Man Alive Crown Grasping Reality with Both Hands blog, J Bradford DeLong (8/11/10)
Return to the Gold Standard would be madness Telegraph, Edmund Conway, (8/11/10)
There is room for debate on a gold standard Financial Times, James Mackintosh (8/11/10)
Private sector should lead gold standard adoption Reuters blogs, Martin Hutchinson (8/11/10)
- How did the Bretton Woods system work to correct balance of payments disequilibria?
- What was the role of (a) gold and (b) the dollar under the Bretton Woods system?
- If countries adopted a pegged exchange rate, what implications would this have for their monetary policy?
- Would using gold as a world currency, to which other currencies were pegged, inevitably have a deflationary effect on the world economy?
- To what extent is gold currently used as a world currency?
- What other measures could the G20 countries adopt to create greater exchange rate stability between the major currencies?
- What is the case for the private sector to start using gold in ordinary transactions?