Getting to the “GUTS” of the G8 Leaders Summit




[To all my US colleagues – a happy and safe Memorial Day holiday]

Two of my colleagues at the Brookings Institution and NYU – Thomas Wright and Bruce Jones – had occasion in the Argument section of – with the convening of the Camp David G8 Summit – to reflect on the state of the advanced economies.  Not surprisingly they were struck by this summit convening – especially in the light of the ascendancy of the G20 and the emergence of the BRICS.  As they said:

Friday’s G-8 summit at Camp David may seem something of an oddity – an archaic reminder of a time before the rise of the BRICs …

My colleagues then launched into a rather odd anti-declinist posture and then suggested that the West is not in decline but

Rather, the financial crisis has created a two-speed West.  Four large countries  – Germany , South Korea, Turkey and the United States – are actually increasing their international influence, while the others are stuck in a rut.

I have no difficulty in acknowledging that each of these identified four seems to have weathered the global financial crisis – some better than others – and that each in its own way has augmented its influence, though it would seem that Germany’s influence appears to be all negative – insisting on what it won’t do and others can’t.  But even with this odd assemblage, there appears to be at least two oddities about this GUTS list.  First of course neither South Korea (I did suggest pointedly to my colleague Bruce that Korean officials, at least,  hate the term South Korea – but leave that alone) nor Turkey are members of the old club.  Thus, if anything this new energy for the “West” – I am not at all sure what that now means when we talk of Korea and Turkey – comes from members that are intimate to the G20 – the new head table for global summitry  but not the old.  So I am puzzled.

Secondly, why these four for identifying the new energy coursing through the West.  I would be hard pressed not to include Australia – who has seen sustained growth for some time and now a strong advocate – all right I’ll admit more of an advocate when led by Kevin Rudd – than with the current prime minister – for the G20.  In addition,  and here I would suggest a country that is part of the G7 and of the G20 – my own country Canada.   Strong growth in the OECD and a joiner if there ever was one.

If those two were acceptable we could have “CATS” or “CUTS”.   The point is a range of countries – vaguely identified as the ‘West” have had robust growth and have taken action to “uphold the international order”.  Is it a two-speed West?  I doubt it and it doesn’t detract from the core of the problem – the relative decline in the US economy and more critically US leadership.  Put more positively the rise of a multipower order and how to manage global collaboration in the face of the rise of GUTS, or CATS or CUTS or whatever.

Image Credit – The United States: Official logo for the Camp David G8 Summit

The False Promise of Like-Mindedness




Observers of global summitry recognize how difficult it is “kill off” a summitry settings.  In 2009 when the United States was eager to promote the newly minted permanent “high table” of economic global governance – the G20 Leaders Summit – there were whispers – unnamed official sources –  that the US was encouraging the “fading away” of the G7/8.

Two problems with that scenario appeared.  First, a number of the “smaller” members of the club – Japan, Italy and Canada – clung to the decades-old G7.  They declared it more informal and intimate in contrast to the  stiffness and formality of the new club.  And the G7 was a setting where these less powerful members held greater sway.  Look at poor Japan.  In the G7 Japan was the only Asian country; but in the G20 Japan was but one of 6 (and yes I do include Australia in this Asian grouping).

The second problem was quick to appear as well.  Notwithstanding early Administration enthusiasm for the enlarged group that now included China, Brazil and India, it proveed to be very heavy lifting to move to consensus and agreement in the enlarged high table of global governance.  Look at the protracted discussion over global imbalances.  American officials began to back away from their earlier enthusiasm and determined regicide and began to suggest a rather more a la carte approach to global summitry – looking at the forum likely to achieve forward movement and to favor that gathering for the specific goal.

So the G7/8 didn’t go away and there was frequent reference to the warm like mindedness that the G7 at least represented.  Here was a club with similar norms and values that could focus on a goal and achieve forward progress in overcoming the collective action problem that plagues global governance.

Well, how’s that view holding up?  Not so well.  So, there we were with about as intimate and informal a setting as you could achieve – Camp David – and what we got was – very little.  And why.  Well, there was deep contention between Germany and the rest over the question of the resolution of the eurozone crisis.  The officials struggled long into the night but the Camp David Declaration failed to deliver.  No agenda – no targets – but strong rhetoric “Our imperative is to promote growth and jobs” and:

Against this background, we commit to take all necessary steps to strengthen and reinvigorate our economies and combat financial stress, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us.

Read that as  – We agree to disagree over growth and austerity.   And as the Multilateralist, David Bosco, chronicled recently in his post “Can the Obama administration get the G8 back to basics?” the US sherpa, Michael Froman turned the agenda in to a grab bag of global governance issues:

But Froman then proceeded to outline an agenda that included a remarkable number of things under the sun, including Syria, Iran, Burma, Afghanistan, energy security, the Eurozone crisis, the Arab Spring, and food security. The scattershot agenda is a reminder of how much the forum has changed from its original economic focus.

So the “like-minded”  – what a number of the original G7 had pinpointed as a peculiarly relevant aspect of this gathering – failed to prove its value.  Sorry global summitry is hard! And whether states are democratic or not provides no guarantee of achieving success.  It remains unclear what the G7 forum, let alone the G8, is all about other than a caucus of states drawn from the larger G20. It might then make greater sense to hold this meeting at an extended meeting time of the G20 – two days plus – rather than one for the G20.  And eliminate the separate time for the G8.  Global Summitry is too precious to squander – like-mindedness or not.

Image Credit: Xinhua/AFP – G8 Summit

Global Summitry in the Context of Global Governance – But Distinct


As mentioned in the last blog post I was in Princeton revelling in the company of colleagues on the question of liberal internationalism – its present and future.  Not content with such a feast of expert views, this last week I travelled to Chicago to continue various dialogues.

The Chicago meetings were not coincidental.  Chicago is soon to host leaders for global summitry.  First there is the G8 Leaders Summit (well it at least it had been planned for Chicago but is now relocated to Camp David) and then the NATO Leaders Summit. The G8 Leaders Summit – the 38th in a series (if you count G7 as well) – will now take place on May 18th and 19th.  It will be followed immediately by the NATO Leaders Summit in Chicago on May 20-21st.  Well there you are: back to back leaders summits.

In part, I suspect, to capture the summit setting and media focus, a second one-day gathering was held by the the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, on Rise of the BRICS.   Rich Williamson the senior fellow project head called together a group of experts to Chicago as he had earlier in New York.  On this occasion Rich had the experts examine the international financial system, economic growth, trade and finance and energy security.

Then on May 10th and 11th the Stanley Foundation, the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern and the Global Summitry Project from the Munk School of Global Affairs put on the conference  “The Apex of Influence – How Summit Meetings Build Multilateral Cooperation” (by the way you may view the entire Conference at  The Apex of Influence Conference was designed to both examine the big picture questions of global summitry definition and evaluate success/failure and also to look more directly at the upcoming key global summit meetings – holding panels on the G8, the G20, NATO and then an examination of the financial crisis in Europe and its consequences for European unity and indeed for global governance.

The “Apex of Influence” Conference included a host of experts and proved to be an illuminating series of panels.  I am going to divide my remarks – looking first at what constitutes – and therefore what doesn’t constitute the scope of global summitry and then in a follow-on post I want to examine the impact of the G8 meeting at Camp David and possibly say something about evaluating success/failure for global summits.

In trying to tease out the contours of global summitry, we created two panels – bookends so to speak with a panel that commenced the conference and then a panel that concluded discussions for this conference.  We were very pleased to include both experts, officials and former officials in our two panels: “What Makes a Summit More Than a Photo-Op?” and “Fair Standards for Summit Success/Failure – Keeping Sight of Diplomatic, Political and Bureaucratic Realities”.

Dan Drezner from Tufts and and David Shorr from TSF led off.  Dan in particular was good about trying to provide a precise definition of global summitry.  As you can see Dan focused on the institutions of global governance that in his mind make up global summitry.  His definition:

A problem solving forum that includes the regular participation of heads of government.

This institutional definition is useful.  It sweeps in a number of forum including:

  • routinized gatherings – the G8 and the G20 of course but also APEC, the Summit of the Americas, the nuclear security summit, NATO and ASEAN;
  • instances where leaders frequently show up – e.g. when leaders gather annually for the opening of the General Assembly;
  • large annual gatherings where some leaders frequently attended, e.g. the World Economic Forum (Davos);

The definition and the  instances cited do help distinguish global summitry from the broader category of global governance.  Thus, annual meetings where leaders do not attend e.g., the Fall and Spring meetings of the IMF for instance are not included.  Other routinized meetings are excluded as well especially those where transgovernmental regulatory agencies meet with officials including public and private regulators but not with leaders, e.g., the FSB, the BCPS, IOSCO,.

The definition provided by Dan is very helpful but the institutional focus may in the end be both too broad and too narrow. In the final session I gave a definition that was more functionally focused, which picks up on Dan’s “problem solving” aspect in his definition.  Thus, the definition for global summitry that I gave was:

The political architecture in which the organization and execution of global politics and policy take place.

This more functional approach targets outputs as well as actors.  Thus, the gathering of leaders at the annual General Assembly opening would fail to qualify as would Davos.  On the other hand it would take the broader element offered by architecture into account including  ministers, ministry officials, working parties, IO (International Organizations) and the vast structure of transgovernmental regulatory networks that get tasked to do things by those up the governmental hierarchy and that find their way to Reports, etc., that leaders then discuss, ratify or request further work.  Dan’s leader focus approach to global summitry, though useful, does separate out the “worker bees” from those at the top.  I see global summitry as a an authority decision mechanism that links together this complex of leaders, officials, representatives – public and private and their agencies, boards and organizations – my so-called “Iceberg Theory of Global Governance”.  It is messy and certainly not “your mother’s international decision structure” – but it has the value of reflecting the politics and policy for today’s global governance.

The question then is global summitry successful?  How can we know?


Image Credit:  Wikimedia Commons – Chicago Landscape


Discussing Intensely the Future of Liberal Internationalism



I had the great pleasure of returning to Princeton this past weekend to reprise the global governance workshop – and we’ve fortunately switched it from January to May.  This was the third edition.  With the partners in place including the Project on the Future of Multilateralism, from Woodrow Wilson, led by John Ikenberry, the International Institutions and Global Governance Program from the Council on Foreign Relations led by Stewart Patrick, the Stanley Foundation led this year by Keith Porter and a number of us – myself and Munk School Director, Janice Stein – from the Munk School of Global Affairs University of Toronto and the Global Summitry Project, we gathered together experts to discuss – “The Future of Liberal Internationalism: Global Governance in a Post-American Hegemonic Era”.  It proved to be a fruitful and even at times somewhat fiery.

The four organizers decided to set a series of five panels – each with a theoretic lens to look at liberal internationalism.  Obviously the first panel examined the future of liberal internationalism from the perspective of the proponents and immediate critics of liberal internationalism.  So panel one – “America and the future of liberal internationalism” – led off with John and was followed by Charlie Kupchan who in his new book No One’s World argues that the decline of the United States and the rise of rest will lead us away from American hegemony and from liberal internationalism as well.  Liberal internationalism, according to Charlie, is inextricably tied with American hegemony.

Panel two focused on Peter Katzenstein’s civilizational analysis in a session entitled “does civilizational analysis define and constrain liberal internationalism?”  The session was indeed led by Cornell’s Peter Katzenstein and proponents and critics joined battle almost immediately.

Panel three turned attention to the rise of networks and the impact of the coming/present existence of the age of communication networks and the impact of these networks on global governance and liberal internationalism.  This session was ably led by Princeton’s Anne-Marie Slaughter – long an observer of networks – and now a strong proponent for the influence of communication networks – on governance.

Panel four focused on the rise of the rest.  This panel was led deftly by Andy Hurrell from Oxford a keen observer of the rise of the rest – especially Brazil – but more generally, Brazil, China and India.  On this panel experts from each provided commentary from India, Pratap Mehta from the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi, Brazil, Matias Spektor from the Fundacao Gitulio Vargas and Minxin Pei from Claremont McKenna College.

Panel five and the last panel of the conference was an interesting panel focused on “liberty, democracy, and the liberal international system”.  The panel was led from two contrasting perspectives on the influence and need for democracy. One perspective was presented by Dan Deudney.  In his lead in he focused on liberal internationalism and the impact on liberty and limited government.  Princeton’s Andy Moravcsik took a second lead examining the case for whether the democratic deficit was enlarged or not by international organizations and liberal internationalism.

Each of the panels provided unique insights into liberal internationalism and its decline, or demise or continuing dominance – with or without the United States as the hegemon.

It is impossible to capture all the discussion, dialogue, agreement and contention that went on in the day and a half we met in these five panels.  In addition I can’t possibly capture all that we heard and discussed from Steve Clemons.  Clemons is currently the Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor in chief of Atlantic Live. He joined us for the Friday dinner and reflected – from a beltway insider’s view – on US politics and policy in remarks he gave to conference gathered after dinner.

So what are some of the things I take away from these panels and discussions?   On a central question – whether liberal internationalism has a life of its own apart from United States hegemony, or is inextricably linked to US leadership such that the decline of the US and the rise of the rest will lead to the end of a liberal internationalist global order, the conclusion is not clear.  Indeed the hanging question was posed by GWU’s Martha Finnemore.  She raised a critical question.  What, she asked, is the box that defines liberal internationalism so that in the future we could assess whether the changes we identify in global governance would enable observers to conclude that liberal internationalism was continuing, or that the changes had resulted in the end of liberal internationalism and the rise of some other political order.  A vital question.  While John was not prepared to describe in detail what was in the international liberalism box, what detail he did describe provided what many saw as a rather thinner structure to liberal internationalism than many had expected focusing primarily on open trade and a rules-based system.  Obviously John avoided suggesting that the powers all needed to be democratic but rather surprisingly John did suggest that liberal democratic states needed to be at the heart of the system.

Also revealing were the efforts by our experts to describe the behaviors of the current rising powers.  Doing so remains evidently a work in progress.  Nevertheless the experts suggested that all – China, Brazil and India – had eagerly become ‘club joiners’ in the world of global summitry.  All seemed eager be seen within the circle of leaders in global governance; but none appeared willing to rush to leadership. Moreover all seemed ambivalent over the rules/norms of if liberal internationalism though none appeared to be seeking to replace liberal internationalism either.  The closest to that was expressed by Minxin Pei who described the alternative vision of Chinese leadership – pointing in this case to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  According to Minxin, the Chinese leadership has committed significant attention and resources to the SCO, which is a closed, China-dominated institution exercising a ‘dialogue and consensus’ approach to policy-making. For China the current strategy is to exercise a minimum level of cooperation, manage the material costs of being part of global summitry and ensure that global governance has a minimum impact on China’s sovereignty.

In examining networks, its seemed largely unremarkable to most that the state is far more disaggregated than traditional international relations suggests.  Today most observers acknowledge the active engagement of non-traditional actors – ministers and ministries and transgovernmental regulatory networks. Foreign ministries no longer hold the monopoly of global summitry policy.  Many accepted that the “Iceberg Theory of Global Governance” is a fact in policy making.  There appeared still strong skepticism over the influence, however, of the communications networks that represent the next chapter of networked governance, according to Anne-Marie Slaughter – what I referred to as Slaughter 3.0

In the final panel there was a fascinating rather surprising I suppose debate of the impact of global governance on national sovereignty.  While world government was generally acknowledged as not the goal of liberal internationalism nevertheless conservative critics – especially Jeremy Rabkin from George Mason – raised the threat to democratic sovereignty from the creation and maintenance liberal internationalism.    Collective leadership and the actions of faceless officials could still raise a threat to national sovereignty – and undermined the ideal of liberty and limited government.   Though largely an American contestation, it reminded us of the tension between national interest and global governance.  It underscored the difficult task of overcoming the collective action problem in the contemporary global political order.


Image Credit:  Wikimedia Commons – Nassau lions at Princeton University