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What’s the point of the G20?

The recently concluded gathering of world leaders increasingly looks like a talking shop.

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G20: more vital than ever

The latest G20 meeting of world leaders has just concluded, but what exactly is the point of it? It increasingly looks "like a talking shop in which the meetings that really matter are between the G2 of the US and China", says Jonathan Wheatley in the Financial Times. Its "glaringly unrepresentative" membership means it can neither address "macroeconomic imbalances" in Turkey and Argentina, nor the problems in emerging markets generally, which have the potential to "develop into the kind of systemic threat that led to the G20's foundation".

But the G20 has achieved many things, says The Japan Times. During the financial crisis it was successful "in averting trade wars and capital outflows" and "successfully co-ordinated large stimulus packages and regulated financial markets". It has helped to bring about a profit-shifting initiative to prevent the erosion of national tax bases. And it has become the most visible forum for accommodating rising powers such as China, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa, in a way that the IMF or World Bank were unable or unwilling to do.

Even if it "has never managed to fulfil the high expectations thrust upon it", the G20's role "has never seemed more vital", agrees The Times. It is the only global gathering other than the UN General Assembly that brings together the world's leading powers. This matters. Bilateral dealmaking is important, but it can "never be a guarantor of global stability". If the world is to emerge from this period of geopolitical volatility, a "new consensus on the primacy of robust global rules needs to be established" and "the G20 remains the best hope for delivering that".

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