Dilemmas in Renewing US Multilateralism

As US President Barack Obama attends his first G8 summit, questions linger on his ability to renew American  multilateralism. While the new president has certainly developed enormous goodwill among other major countries, critical tests of his interest in utilizing multilateral institutions to address economic and security issues remain on the horizon.

In this video, Andrew F. Cooper interviews Keith Porter – Director of Policy and Outreach at the Stanley Foundation – on the anticipated renewal of US multilateral activities and what types of policies it can take to make the world more secure.  The G8 and G20 Summits, in his view, provide a stage for sorting out many of these types of questions as the informal agenda of this “rolling meeting” of important world leaders opens up avenues for targetted multilateralism.

Mr. Porter stakes out the important role the US can have international institutions, both in the formal (like the UN) and the informal (like the G8), and how it can lead in reforming them to better reflect the new balance of world power. In his view, this also means using such fora to engage in important political and security issues, including instability in Iran and nuclear aggression by North Korea.

Even in this Italian-hosted G8 meeting, the US has stepped-up to make things work. There are reports that US officials were called in to facilitate last-minute planning and document preparations. Likewise, Thursday’s Major Economies Forum on climate and energy will be co-hosted by Berlusconi and Obama, a signal perhaps that the US administration either wants to keep discussions on track or be able to claim its successful outcomes.

Many dilemmas, domestically and abroad, challenge the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateralism – many of which will come to the fore as it sets to host the next G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.


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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