Saturday, January 16, 2016

G What?

The debate about Ottawa and its relative wonderfulness (or not) started with the notion that its capital is not fit for a G-7 country.  Which, of course, raises the questions of what a G-7 country is and is Canada really one of them?  Indeed, the first meetings of what became the G-7 didn't include Canada way back in the early 1970s. 

The basic idea is to have these meetings of the biggest/most advanced industrialized countries to help coordinate the world economy.  They don't have control, but if they coordinate their policies, they can push/shape/influence exchange rates and other aspects (I think, I am not an IPE expert). 

Russia was included for a while but got booted because of that whole Putin thing.  China?  Not invited yet.  But does Canada belong?  If you had to come up with a list of the major players in the international economy and restricted it to democratic countries with capitalist economies (no China, no Russia), who would be included?  Again, size is key since the size of one's market matters a great deal.

Well, the first question is whether to have the EU as a member or have some countries in it, since the EU is a larger economy than all under most measures except where China bounces past.  But the EU is not as coherent as it should be, and there is the pesky reality that the UK has its own currency, which matters for stuff that relates to currencies.  I tend to be an EU skeptic, so they are not on my list, and that does match reality since the current G-7 include four European countries--France, Germany, Italy and the UK. 

So, the largest economies basically goes as follows:
  1. China
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. Japan
  5. Germany
  6. Russia
  7. Brazil
  8. Indonesia
  9. France (sometimes ahead of Indonesia)
  10. UK
  11. Mexico
  12. Italy (sometimes ahead of Mexico)
  13. South Korea
  14. Saudi Arabia
  15. Canada
Hmmm, if you drop out China/Russia/Saudi Arabia since it seems to be a democratic club, then one has to ask about the up and coming big economies of India, Brazil and Indonesia.  India has been democratic for nearly its entire history, but one would not call it an advanced industrial or post-industrial economy.  Brazil?  Its democratic record is not bad of late but most recently seems to be most interesting from a political stability standpoint.  Indonesia?  Shorter history of democracy, not an advanced economy.  Mexico?  Semi-failed state....  So, dropping those (and I would hesistate to drop India and Brazil, but let's go for what the G-7 has tended to stand for), we get:
  1. United States
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. UK
  6. Italy
  7. South Korea
  8. Canada
 Um, ooops.  South Korea has been a pretty advanced economy for quite awhile, sufficiently democratic since the 1980s, and is probably seen as a more significant actor in the world economy than Canada, especially when oil is cheap. 

So, if you had to only have seven, I am not sure Canada belongs.  It gets close only if one drops some major economies that probably have more influence.

Asking if Ottawa is a good enough capital for a G-7 country, which is a silly way to talk about it anyway, might be missing the point.  Perhaps not G-7 worthy, but G-7 or G-15?  Sure. 

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