A member of G11? Think again.
The author is dean of the Graduate School of Global Cooperation at Hallym University.
U.S. President Donald Trump has recently floated the possibility of expanding the Group of 7 (G7) to a Group of 11 or 12 by inviting four or five more countries to this year’s meeting in Washington, instantly drawing international attention. Trump seems to be envisaging Korea, Russia, Australia and India for additional members of a G11 — or a G12 in case Brazil comes along, too.
Can such a new multilateral system arise in the post-Covid-19 era? If the history of G7 offers any hint, a new system would rely on the consent of major countries and a corresponding global agenda, not solely on America’s call for change.
The G7 was established in the 1970s during a time of global emergency, when the world economy could no longer effectively respond to crises and the United States could not create a new order on its own, sustain worldwide stability or resolve conflicts between major powers. Oil prices had jumped from $3 a barrel in October 1973 to $12 by January 1974, while the average inflation rate for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rose to 13.5 percent and unemployment nearly doubled in the same period.
The first G7 meeting was held in November 1975 at the Castle of Rambouillet in France. France took the lead in launching the G7 on the grounds that policy coordination among major powers was necessary for global crisis management. Through international policy coordination, the G7 vowed to work as a collective management group in resolving dilemmas over sovereignty and interdependence.
Before the G-20 summit came to life, there was another international governance model that had been in the works. The Heiligendamm process kicked off in 2007 in the German seaside resort on the Baltic Sea coast, when the Outreach 5 (O5) countries — China, Mexico, India, Brazil and South Africa — were invited to the G8 summit. The process could have culminated to the creation of a G13.
Then in 2008 when Japan hosted the G8 summit in Toyako, Hokkaido Prefecture, three more countries — Korea, Australia and Indonesia — were invited alongside the O5, hinting at a possible G16. But the G-20 is what eventually launched following the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, as the agenda and interests of the international society were restructured into believing that large rising economies with a big stake in the global economy should put their heads together to overcome the crisis.
Korea, for its part, managed to gain international stature after the 2008 global financial crisis and successfully landed a spot in the G-20, as it actively participated in international political discussions of global agenda-setting.
For instance, Korea proposed a so-called Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth, which was focused on green growth, a global financial safety net, and working collaboratively with developing countries. The plan ultimately earned the consent of fellow countries and was adopted by the G-20 and OECD.
An invitation from the United States alone does not suffice for Korea to be added onto a new G11 or G12 system. In order for Korea to proactively participate in a new paradigm of global governance, it must dig deep into the core of international politics, where the global agenda is quickly shifting amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Korea must look beyond domestic affairs to see worldwide issues with a global perspective — and demonstrate strategic consistency in trust-building steps with other countries that share the same free trade and democratic values — in order to earn their consent on its ideas.
At a time when the global system is transitioning, Korea must start learning from its past, sharing experiences with others and cooperating with them.