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The Group of Eight and the European Union: The Evolving Partnership

III. Reassessing the G8+1

G8 activities with an eye to their future role have involved restructuring and reform, thus bringing about the need for a re-evaluation of their impact. In order to establish a framework for this re-appraisal, several experienced observers of the G8 process have produced insightful analyses. These reports are essential for making a critical reassessment of G8 activities as well as possible future scenarios.

Globalization has increased the pressure for convergence in the spheres of economic and monetary policy. In this new context, cooperation and coordination play ever more critical roles. However, even with the advantages of cooperation clearly visible, barriers to increasing cooperation exist. Governments face domestic pressures which often force them to take short-sighted actions in order to appease certain national elements.74 The issue of burden sharing, or the equal distribution of the costs and benefits related to cooperative action, is also a limiting factor. Expanding participation of the G8, whether through increasing its membership, or more likely through forming partnerships with other states and international organizations, is a possible reaction to the growing need for international policy coordination and cooperation. The 1996 Lyon Summit Communiqué's preamble offered an indication that the members recognize the need to involve other states:

Our countries have made a decisive contribution to the progress of liberalization and globalization. We must do our best to ensure that this process fully responds to the hopes it has aroused and that globalization serves the interest of people, their jobs and their quality of life...

This requires increased international cooperation...We call upon other countries with the financial capacity and a stake in the international trade and monetary system to join us in these efforts so as to share the responsibilities and the burdens fairly among ourselves and with others. We will thus be able to make a success of globalization for the benefit of all.75

The G8 has great potential to serve as a major forum for coordination among its current participants as well as influencing the policies of the regions surrounding them. However, in the same manner in which the G8 has called for a delineation of responsibilities concerning international institutions or groupings, the G8 must clearly establish the parameters of its responsibilities and role in the global system. According to a US official, discussing international trade coordination between the EU, US and Japan is a prime example of overlapping coverage. The meetings of the Quad, consisting of the EU, US, Japan, and Canada, focus on trade issues in a similar manner as the G8. He raised the point of whether the G8 should defer international trade discussions among these particular members to the Quad.76

Reform of the G8 will continue and cover the full spectrum of alternatives from institutionalization to disbanding the process altogether. Michael Hodges, a leading academic on the G8 process summarized the suggested reforms: 1) establishing a secretariat in order to have a source of institutional memory; 2) delegating certain responsibilities to international organizations including the IMF, OECD and WTO; and 3) including 'specialist ministers' in certain G8 programs to promote their implementation.77 Judging from the past several summits which have seen evidence of increased delegation to international institutions as well as involvement by G8 national ministers and experts, the trend appears to be following both the second and third options.78

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Updated: June 25, 1998

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