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What's the G-7? An international economist explains
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What's the G-7? An international economist explains

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Britain G7

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, greets French President Emmanuel Macron during arrivals for the G7 meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Friday, June 11, 2021. Leaders of the G7 begin their first of three days of meetings on Friday, in which they will discuss COVID-19, climate, foreign policy and the economy. (Phil Noble, Pool via AP)

The Group of 7 is an informal group of seven powerful democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The presidents of the European Commission and European Council also attend G-7 meetings because several of Europe’s largest countries are also members.

Membership, which is decided internally, hasn’t changed much since the group’s founding in 1975. At the time, it included only six countries, all of which still belong. Canada joined a year later. Russia joined as an eighth member in 1998, temporarily changing the group’s moniker to the G-8, but Russia was ousted after it annexed Crimea in 2014.

Together, these seven wealthy nations form the foundation of the modern global economy and the cooperative rules-based system on which it is built.

APTOPIX G7 Biden

Leaders of the G7 pose for a group photo on overlooking the beach at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Friday, June 11, 2021. Leaders from left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

Why the G-7 matters

The G-7 countries make up about 40% of the world economy, down from nearly 70% a few decades ago.

Despite the decline, the economic might of G-7 nations remains undeniable, not least due to their collective position as countries at the forefront of technological innovation and industrial know-how. Moreover, G-7 economies are inextricably interwoven with global supply chains, which means that a policy change or economic shock in one G-7 country will, for better or worse, have ripple effects across the globe.

Ultimately, the G-7 may be the best hope for quick, decisive and meaningful policy action on pressing global problems.

While the G-7 doesn’t have the institutional clout of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization or NATO, it also doesn’t have their institutional red tape or bureaucracy.

And although the G-7 is a subset of the ascendant G20 – which also includes rising economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil – the G-7 has another advantage: it’s much easier to achieve consensus in an intimate group of similar nations than it is to find common ground among diverse nations with very different economic and political priorities.

G7 Summit What’s The G7

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 1975 file photo the six heads of state and government attending Economic and Monetary summit meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet, West of Paris, pose for a group portrait before the final session. From left: Premier Aldo Moro of Italy, Premier Harold Wilson of the Great Britain, President Gerald Ford of the United States, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France, Chacellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and Premier Takeo Miki of Japan. The G7 was originally a response by leaders of Western democracies to the economic shocks and recession of the mid-1970s. (AP Photo, File)

What the G-7 does

The world is facing profound challenges, from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to authoritarianism and attacks on democracy.

None of these issues colors neatly within the lines of national borders. Countries need to cooperate to find solutions that do not simply kick the can to their neighbors.

An example of meaningful action by the G-7 is its June 5, 2021, announcement of an agreement on global minimum corporate tax rates, which marked a watershed moment in international taxation. If successful, the agreement could mean the end of tax havens and a dramatic shift in how companies record their profits around the world.

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The Conversation U.S. publishes short, accessible explanations of newsworthy subjects by academics in their areas of expertise.

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter.]The Conversation

Emily J. Blanchard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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