G20 definition

a group of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies


The G20 – also known as “the Group of 20” – consists of 19 of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies, as well as the European Union (EU.)

It was founded back in 1999. Every year, presidents, prime ministers, finance ministers and central bank governors meet up for a summit to discuss the issues facing the global economy.

Members of the G20

Combined, the G20 accounts for a whopping 85% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP,) as well as more than three-quarters of global trade.

The 28-member trading bloc known as the EU is a member, but the European nations of France, Germany, Italy and the UK are counted as members in their own right. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the US and Canada represent the Americas, while Australia, India, China, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea fly the flag for the Asia-Pacific region. Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are also members.

Countries that aren’t a member of the G20 can still get involved, as the group says it wants to “reflect a broad range of international opinion.” For example, Spain is a permanent guest invitee.

How it works

Unlike other organizations, the G20 doesn’t have a permanent base. As a result, a different member of the group assumes the presidency every year. They will then be responsible for hosting the annual summit. Japan held this role in 2019 – and its summit was held at the end of June in the city of Osaka.

What the G20 does

The issues discussed at G20 summits vary from year to year. Recent examples include climate change, women’s empowerment and trade. If all 20 members of the group can reach an agreement on these topics, they release a joint declaration setting out their approach. This isn’t always easy, as some nations can take a firm line that puts them at odds with other members.

For world leaders, the G20 can also bring another benefit: the opportunity to hold informal talks with their counterparts on the sidelines of the summit. These one-on-one discussions can present important opportunities to address issues that may be a source of ongoing tension between two nations.

Critics claim that the G20 achieves very little because of how the agreements reached between members are not legally binding. Others argue that it isn’t appropriate to exclude the world’s other 170 countries, but then again, this could make reaching a consensus even more difficult.

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