Keeping up the G20’s Momentum

Paola Subacchi
Research Director, International Economics, Chatham House

Unlike the London Summit of the G20 leaders at the beginning of April the G8 summit to be held this week in L’Aquila Italy has so far attracted little attention. Certainly a less dramatic – although still not positive – economic outlook has curbed the sense of urgency that dominated weeks before the G20 meeting. There is also the widespread sentiment that the G8 has been demoted and the G20 is now the forum at which to discuss global issues. This backdrop, together with the fact that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is entangled in personal issues, make many commentators see the L’Aquila Summit as a non-event.

The London Summit was certainly a success, and so a hard act to follow, not least because the G20 seems to be establishing itself as an ongoing process with a rolling agenda, rather than merely a series of ad hoc meetings. Undoubtedly the Italian Presidency of the G8 has a hard task, being caught between the success of London and the decreasing relevance of the G8. But there is also scope for building a meaningful bridge between London and L’Aquila.

The Italian Presidency has focused the Summit preparatory work and the agenda on a search for a new standards and ethics, together with an innovative approach to summitry governance –so-called ‘variable geometry’. This is an attempt to enlarge the traditional group of G8 members to the ‘new emerging powers’ while giving the G8 the status of ‘primi inter pares’. While we are doubtful that ‘variable geometry’ provides the way forward, we see the rationale of focusing the L’Aquila Summit on governance. There is a real risk that the Summit will fail to achieve relevance, and to avoid this scenario, we suggest that the G8 chair pushes for progress on a number of key items that were not adequately addressed at the London Summit and where progress can be made in L’Aquila – fostering clarity for the G20 agenda for the next meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009.

With regard, in particular, to the reform of the International Monetary Fund, the Italian Presidency should use its G8 chair to initiate a dialogue on reform of the European representation, taking advantage of having all the key players gathered together in L’Aquila. This will continue and strengthen the economic governance reform process and show that the G8 recognises that the global economy has changed.

Disclaimer: This blog is solely intended to spur discussion, while the opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or their respective Boards of Directors.

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