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Return to: The Daito Bunka 2000 Lectures

The G8 and Global Governance:
The Role of Canada, Japan and the United States

Daito Bunka University
Lecture #1
July 10th, 2000

Most students studying global governance are quite familiar with the work of the United Nations system established in the mid 1940s at the end of the Second World War. Far fewer are familiar with the G7/G8 system created in 1975, with what it has done these past 26 years and with what have the U.S., Japan, and Canada have done within the G7 to meet their own foreign policy objectives and to make the G7 and since 1998 G8 effective as a centre of global governance. Here there are two central questions. The first: Is the G7/G8 system effective as a centre of global governance? Second: Are the U.S., Japan and Canada effective within the G7/G8 in using it to create a forum of global governance and a world order that they want.

A. The Course Organization

To answer these questions, we need to examine several questions. First, what is global governance, and how does the G7 contribute to global governance? Second, why should one think that the U.S., a very large power, Japan, a more modest power, and little Canada, a small power, are all what I call "principal powers" that can work equally to make the G7 effective. Those are the questions we will examine today.

Tomorrow, we will begin a look at the role each of these three principal powers of the "North Pacific Triangle" play in the G7/G8. We will begin by looking at Canada's role. Can very small Canada actually affect the outcomes of this G7/G8 club of the world's major industrial democracies? If so, there must be something quite special and important about the G7/G8 as a particular kind of international institution.

Second, we examine Japan. Can Japan use the G7 to secure what it wants, including issues that might otherwise be dealt with in Japan's bilateral relationship with the U.S., issues such as the U.S. military bases on Okinawa? And then we look at the United States, so large, once called a superpower, and more recently after the end of the European Cold War, a United States that some said was the world's only remaining superpower. Does it need any major international institution to get what it wants in the world? Would a U.S. so powerful allow its own foreign policy be affected by what any international institution does, even the G7? Does the U.S. dominate the G7 and use it to get what it wants? Or does the G7 affect American foreign policy? Does it force the U.S. to adjust to what other countries, including the smallest Canada and a traditionally modest Japan want?

We then look at the relationship of two other Pacific powers Russia and China with the G7/G8. The G7 and G8 have never really had just seven members, or just eight. At its first summit meeting in 1975 at Rambouillet, France, there were leaders from only six countries present: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy. It was only at the second annual G7 summit, held the next year in Puerto Rico in the United States, that the leader of Canada came.

So for one brief moment in 1976 in Puerto Rico, the G7 actually had seven countries' leaders there. But not for long. The next year, 1977, the G7 met for the third time, on this occasion in London, England. There it was joined by the European Union, a regional organization, for some of the summit sessions.

So by 1977 there was a "G7 and a half," the half being the European Union, which was allowed to come to only those sessions that discussed issues such as international trade that lay within the competence of the European Union.

Then, in 1991, things changed again. In 1991, the G7-and-a-half met again in Britain, in London, for what's called London 3 (It was the third time the Summit met in London). That time the G7 and a half had their meeting and then at the end, they had a special session with the leader of a new country the Soviet Union, represented by Mikhail Gorbachev. The next year, 1992 in Munich, there were no more Soviets. The Soviet Union had become Russia and the other post-Soviet republics. But the G7-and-a-half invited the leader of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, to come. The Russians have been coming ever since.

In 1997 President Clinton hosted the summit in Denver, Colorado. He wanted to make his Denver summit a historic event. So he called it the "Denver of the Eight," not Seven, or Seven and a Half. And he invited Boris Yeltsin to come for almost the entire summit, not just for part or for a meeting at the end.

In 1997, G7 members the major industrial or market-oriented democracies were not convinced they could fully trust the Russians. So, during their G8 meeting, the G7 took a few hours to meet all by themselves, without the Russians present.

The next year, 1998, the summit was again in Britain, this time in Birmingham. There for the first time the great announcement was made: The G7 had become, not just for one meeting (the Denver Summit of the Eight), but for all time, a new G8 with Russia as a full member forever.

It thus looked as if the G7 could now trust the Russians. But perhaps not completely. The afternoon before the G8 meeting opened, with a banquet on the Friday night, the leaders of the seven held their own summit. This means there was both the G7 leaders summit, followed by a longer G8 summit with the Russians as full participants.

The same sequence will unfold at Okinawa. On the afternoon of Friday, July 21, the leaders of the seven major industrial democracies (the original seven of Puerto Rico) will meet for their own summit. After they have met, the G8 will start with an opening dinner, then meet all day Saturday until about noon time Sunday. So we still have the G7, and a bigger and longer G8.

Should the G7 let the Russians come to the G7 meeting on Friday afternoon? Should they thus eliminate the old G7 and make everything one big G8?

To answer these questions, we need to know what role Russia has played in the G8 since it began to participate in 1991. Russia may be another Pacific principal power, along with Canada, Japan and the United States.

In the future there may be yet another North Pacific principal power that becomes involved in the G8: China. Last fall, when that great Japanese prime minister, Keizo Obuchi, started to prepare for his summit, he invited China to Okinawa to begin to associate China with the G8. That was the right thing to do. It was a very wise move by the late Prime Minister Obuchi. But the leadership in Beijing disagreed, and so China's leader will not be at Okinawa. So should we invite more members into the G7 and a half, or the G7 and the half plus three quarters with Russia? And if we should, who should it be? China? Just China? Another Asian country? India is my favourite. But does not that make the club too big? And if it is too big, the club may find it more difficult to come to consensus, more difficult to have the G8 serve as an effective centre of global governance.

The G8 is a very exclusive club of only the richest and most powerful countries. It is not easy to get in. The Russians now seem to have past some test, met some standard to get most of the way in. Does China meet that standard? Do other countries? What is that standard? One thing is clear: Once you are in the G7 or G8, you never get kicked out. G8 membership is forever.

It only matters if you become a member of the G7/G8 if the G7/G8 is really an effective centre of global governance, if it in fact can shape world order, if it can really determine which countries and what values win and lose in the world.

To see if it is effective, we will next look at two central issues: one from the field of economics, or low politics, the other from the field of high or hard politics, peace and security, including the actual conduct of war. The first was a very recent crisis that badly shook all those in the North Pacific Triangle, the Asian financial crisis, which became a global financial crisis, as it unfolded from 1997 to 1999. It was a crisis that devastated the economic prospects of many in Asia-Pacific countries. It helped create a recession in Japan, made young people as well as older people worry much more about whether they would get good jobs, keep good jobs worry about what their career prospects might be.

In the end the international community solved that crisis. Things are much better now in Canada, in Japan, in most of the rest of Asia, than they were even a year or two ago. So what role did the G7 and G8 play in solving that great crisis in the economic domain that so harmed or threatened to harm the lives of ordinary citizens in the Asia-Pacific region and indeed around the world.

The second case comes from the security field. This may seem unusual because many people still think the summit is an economic summit and not a body that can affect outcomes in the security field, including the ultimate task of going to, guiding and concluding a war. But at least year's summit in June 1999 in the city of Cologne, Germany, one of the major issues that the G8 leaders dealt with was ending the war in Kosovo, a war that had begun with military action by many members of the North American Treaty Organization on March 24, 1999. What role did the G8 play in ending that war, in winning that war for G8 members? And can the G8 be effective as effective at Okinawa in beginning the process of ending the cold war in Asia and preventing the conflicts that are likely to come in the end of the cold war's wake.

Finally, we will look ahead to Okinawa. Will we know enough then about the role of host Japan, and the roles of the United States and Canada, to allow us to predict how successful the Okinawa summit will be?

B. The Central Arguments

Let me give you my answers to many of these questions. Many distinguished authors have written about the G7 and G8; in fact there's a long bibliography of people who have written about the G7 at our website at http://www.G7.utoronto.ca. Most of them, in fact almost all, disagree with me. You will each have your own views. My answers are as follows.

First, the G7/G8 system is emerging as the effective centre of global governance. It increasingly matters for everything that matters to citizens of the world. For example, one thing that matters to us is education. For many long years, the education system, the policy and the law, was the responsibility of national governments the national government of Japan or of the United States, or of France. It really did not matter what the government of the U.S. thought about domestic education in Japan. But a few months ago, the Japanese government hosted the first ever meeting of G8 education ministers, something that matters to citizens. Something that was long the exclusive preserve of national governments has now become a subject of G8 discussions and thus of G8 governance.

Secondly, the G8 is emerging as the effective centre of global governance because it is a particular kind of international institution. It is a concert. It is a concert of effective equals in which no one member, no matter how powerful, can dictate to the others. It is a concert of effective equals in which even the smallest member, Canada, can behave as effectively, as influentially, as the largest member, the United States. Stated differently the G7/G8, because it is a concert of effective equals, allows Canada and Japan to exercise effective influence and win against the U.S.

Thirdly, when one examines the role of Japan, Canada, the United States and Russia in the G7/G8, one will see each of those countries leading, and each of those countries including the U.S. adjusting to what the other members want. They all perform roles in the G7/G8 that make them effective equals in the club.

Fourthly, one looks at critical issues notably the global financial crisis, the war in Kosovo one finds that the G7/G8 was critical in securing the outcomes that successfully ended those crises. It did so because all of the G7 and G8 members adjusted to each other, accepted their fair share of the responsibilities, and acted together acted in concert just in time.

Fifthly, Okinawa will be a substantially successful summit. Indeed, it could be a truly historic one if the leaders act the right way. Okinawa is a particularly important summit because it comes at a time that allows the leaders themselves to ask some central questions about global governance. It is the first summit of the twenty-first century, so it allows them to look back on the twentieth century and on how effective global governance was the way it was practiced then. Recall that the twentieth century was marked by many horrors recurrent war, depression and genocide. Can the international community do better in the twenty-first century and produce a better record?

Thus the first anniversary for Okinawa is the number one hundred, the last hundred years of the war-drenched twentieth century and whether leaders can do a better job in the next hundred years.

The second anniversary is the number twenty-five. Okinawa, as the twenty-sixth annual G7/G8 summit, will allow the leaders to reflect on the G7/G8's own performance during its first twenty-five years. When the world was governed by the G7 and the G8, in the last quarter of the last century, did it do a better job of global governance than the world saw in the twentieth century before the G7 came into exist in 1975?

The next number is ten. Okinawa marks the tenth anniversary of the end of the cold war in Europe, and as a result in many but not all other places in the world. The G7 and G8 played the central role in ending the cold war in Europe. Can the G7/G8, now more than twenty-five years old, play an equally effective part in ending the cold war in Asia, on the Korean peninsula, and across the Taiwan straits. Moreover, if one moves back in time, can it end not only the cold war that began in 1947, but ending the remnants of the second world war as well a war whose legacy is very visible in the heavy military presence of the U.S. in Okinawa and of Russia in Japan's northern territories as well.

The final number is five. It was only five years ago, at the G7 summit in Lyon, France, that G7 leaders first used in the communiqué they issue at the end of the session, the world "globalization" in French mondialisation. Globalization takes many forms: trade liberalization, the spread to so many of our countries of the information technology (IT) revolution and of democratic values and practices of a market economy. But trade liberalization and the IT revolution create winners and losers amongst countries and amongst communities as well. Can the G7 and G8 guide the process of globalization to make it work not just for the powerful, not just for the prosperous, but for poor people in poor communities as well?

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