G-20 and International Economic Cooperation

The Group of Twenty (G-20) is a forum for advancing international cooperation and coordination among 20 major advanced and emerging-market economies. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU). G-20 countries account for about 85% of global economic output, 75% of global exports, and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Originally established in 1999, the G-20 rose to prominence during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and is now the premier forum for international economic cooperation. Since the crisis, the G-20 leaders typically meet annually (at “summits”). Meetings among lower-level officials, including finance ministers and central bank governors, are scheduled throughout the year. G-20 meetings primarily focus on international economic and financial issues, although related topics are also discussed, including development, food security, and the environment, among others.

Congress exercises oversight over the Administration’s participation in the G-20, including the policy commitments that the Administration is making in the G-20 and the policies it is encouraging other G-20 countries to pursue. Additionally, legislative action may be required to implement certain commitments made by the Administration in the G-20 process.

The G-20 in 2019 and 2020

Japan holds the rotating chair of the G-20 in 2019, and focused the summit agenda on three major issues: trade, the digital economy, and the environment.

As in recent summits, the U.S. positions on trade and climate change put it at odds with the other G-20 members, with some analysts continuing to refer to the forum as the “G-19+1.” In the communiqué, leaders agreed to general principles supporting trade (free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable) and pledged to reform the World Trade Organization, but did not repeat previous pledges to fight protectionism. On climate change, the communiqué reflected the split between the United States, which has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the other 19 countries, which pledged continued support for and implementation of the Paris Agreement. The communiqué also references commitments on a range of other issues, including infrastructure investment, global finance, anti-corruption, employment, women’s empowerment, agriculture, development, global health, and migration, with varying consequence and degree of specificity.

President Trump also held several high-profile meetings with leaders on the side of G-20 events, including with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman and Chinese president Xi Jinping. Saudi Arabia is to chair the G-20 in 2020 and host the summit on November 21-22, 2020, in Riyadh. Some analysts concerned about Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices have called for a relocation or boycott of the summit, although it is not clear what traction such proposals have gained to date.

U.S. Leadership and Effectiveness of the G-20

The G-20 meeting and outcomes are contributing to ongoing debate about the U.S. leadership in the world under the Trump Administration. Some commentators are concerned that U.S. isolation at international summits reflects a growing trend of abdication of U.S. leadership and abandonment of U.S. allies. Others are more optimistic, arguing that differences between the United States and other countries are overblown and that President Trump is pursuing foreign policies consistent with his campaign pledges. Purchase this Volume