By Cho Jin-seo
The Netherlands was given the boot from the G20 summit for the first time since its inception two years ago, while Singapore has taken its place ahead of November’s Seoul Summit.
The G20 Seoul preparation committee said Friday that it has sent invitations to five non-G20 member nations and seven international organizations.
Now the “G20 plus five” has a better geographical representation, the committee’s deputy chief Rhee Chang-yong said. Ethiopia and Malawi represent Africa, and Singapore and Vietnam are from Asia. Spain, which had been invited to every G20 summit along with the Netherlands, survived the cut for Europe’s sake.
“It might be perplexing to the Netherlands. We feel a bit sorry for them,” Rhee said in a press briefing held at the committee’s headquarters in Samcheong-dong, Seoul. “But the Sherpas of the G20 member nations have finally agreed that we needed to have a better geographical balance. There was a consensus that a certain region had been over-represented.”
That certain region is Western Europe. It has four fixed member nations ― France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom ― as well as the European Union as the G20’s only non-state member. In addition, Spain and the Netherlands had been participating in each of the past four summits on invitations from host nations. The Czech Republic and Sweden were also invited once each last year, which increased Western Europe’s count at the summit’s table to eight.
It was a time- and energy-consuming negotiation to rewrite the list of invitees, Rhee said.
“It was a complicated issue, because it was entangled with conflicting national interests of G20 members. It was a hot potato. With the invitation list finally set, we can now save time and focus more on the meeting’s agenda.”
Rhee also said that the finalized list has little to do with Korea’s own national interest. In previous summits, the invitations were handed out by the host nation. But for the Seoul Summit, Korea was only committed to the role of a mediator and led the efforts to produce an invitation rule, he said.
“We have forgone the right to select invitees for the sake of a greater good. We have set a tradition that the invitations should be made on a consensus of G20 members, not in the host country’s own desire,” he said.
Malawi is the chair of the African Union, and Ethiopia is the chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Vietnam is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Singapore is the chair of the Global Governance Group, a gathering of 28 non-G20 nations, but it is also a critical place for the G20 because of its role as a global financial hub.
Spain was included because of its economic weight, although it is already represented by the European Union at the G20.
Rhee, Seoul’s “Sherpa,” or chief negotiator, said that the presence of Malawi, Ethiopia and Vietnam can help the G20 extend its arms to developing and underdeveloped nations. Sustainable economic development of poor countries is one of the key issues to be dealt at the Seoul Summit.
The first G20 summit was held in October 2008 in Washington in response to the outbreak of a global financial crisis. It was an expansion of the G7, a meeting of seven economic powers, since countries had realized that the G7 could not deal with global economic problems without help from emerging economic powers such as China and Brazil.
The Seoul Summit is to be held on Nov. 11 and 12. Its main issues include global coordination in fiscal and monetary policies, reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), setting new regulations on bank capital and liquidity, and sustainable development of poor nations.
Regular G20 members are South Africa, Canada, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union.