“BRIC by BRIC” Part I

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Whether we look at the UNSC-P5 or the industrialized G7/8, or other global governance institutions, the refrain is the same – the organization cannot get the work done given current membership. The organization neither has the economic heft, in some cases, or the diplomatic leadership, in other cases, or both, to make decisions. But constructing the path to new global governance architecture – devising membership reform – is not simple. Indeed the redistribution of power in the international system and accommodating new leadership is the key dilemma in reform. Exploring the development of G7/8 enlargement is the purpose of a paper by Timothy Shaw (his appointments span the world but currently he is at the University of the West Indies and CIGI Senior Fellow) , Agata Antkiewicz (Senior Researcher at CIGI) and Andrew Cooper (Associate Director and CIGI Distinguished Fellow) (Shaw et al.) for the economic diplomacy Project at CIGI. The paper entitled, “The Logic of the B(R)ICSAM Model for Global Governance.” It is a thorough review of the current enlargement efforts in the G7/8. So they have argued, “The legitimacy of the G7/8 has long been questioned. The greatest source of weakness (as well paradoxically as its strength in terms of club cohesion) has been its self-selected (and un-elected) status. To outsiders, especially in the global South, it was precisely this feature that demarked the G8 as an illegitimate body in contrast to the universal form of multilateralism via the UN system with all its formalism).” Here then our old tension then over the two models of global governance – the Great power model versus the Universalist model. So while there is a growing presumption over the inadequacy of the G7/8 club, it is not a view accepted by a number of the G7. For some the intimacy of the G7 leaders meeting would be sacrificed to wider legitimacy. US leadership has reflected this concern. And notwithstanding the inclusion/non-inclusion of Russia, there is concern that the democratic nature of the participants will be lost, or eroded, with the inclusion of China. For others there is concern that they will be disinvited. This is a concern of Canada and Italy and Italy for example. For others there is concern that they will lose their privileged position. Thus, Japan is unenthusiastic over adding new Asian powers, especially China.

There is ambivalence as well from possible HP entrants (more on that later). There is strong ambivalence in the O5 camp over the notion of G13 enlargement. The O5 participants are not unambiguously enthusiastic over joining with the rich powers especially if the agenda is a product of G7/8 thinking. But as Shaw et al. point out the HP process is not at first glance about enlargement. It is evident from their narrative that the structured dialogue process of Germany and its Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was not a priori about enlargement, notwithstanding on how commentators and a number of other European leaders jumped at, and indeed promoted, the enlargement. For the O5 this too represents a dilemma. They are unhappy at not being treated as equals with the current G7/8 and yet they are also ambivalent about the Great power membership as well. One does immediately think about ‘sucking’ and ‘blowing.’

The paper does, however, look closely at appropriateness of the O5 choice. As they point out, “Of more instrumental purpose for this conceptual paper, this cluster of countries [BRICSAM] coincides with the so-called G5 ‘outreach’ or ‘dialogue’ countries that have been gradually albeit unevenly incorporated into the G7/8 summit process. The value of using the term B(R)ICSAM therefore is that it recognizes the individuality of each member of this group of countries, while minimizing the sensitivities of hanging onto terms such as ‘outreach’ or ‘dialogue’ – problematic from the perspective of the global South, mainly due to its condescending connotation.” For Shaw et al., examining the many possible enlargement powers, there is much that suggests the advantage of targeting the BRICSAM. They narrate the economic and diplomatic leverage that these Great powers bring. As they argue, “This structural strength goes hand in hand with diplomatic prowess. As suggested by Humphrey and Messner (2005)* in their innovative work on what they term “anchor countries”, the size of the economies of these hub countries must be blended with their capacity to “actively participate in global dialogue” that is crucial for this analysis.” Shaw et al. conclude, I suppose not surprisingly, “Notwithstanding all its limitations, the B(R)ICSAM has a good number of advantages over other models not only on the logic of economics but diplomacy.” Well that may indeed be right. But how to achieve reform is another matter. But that’s for the future and possibly ‘BRIC by BRIC.’

* John Humphrey and Dirk Messner, “The Impact of the Asian and other Drivers on Global Governance