What Is the Group of Eight (G-8)?

The Group of Eight (G-8) is an assembly of the world's largest developed economies that have established a position as pacesetters for the industrialized world. Leaders of member countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, France and, until recently, Russia, meet periodically to address international economic and monetary issues.

In 2014, Russia was suspended indefinitely from the group after annexing Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine. As a result, the G-8 is now often referred to as the G-7.

Key Takeaways

  • The Group of Eight (G-8) is an intergovernmental organization that meets periodically to address international economic and monetary issues.
  • The G-8 is now referred to as the G-7 because Russia, one of the original eight, was suspended from the group in 2014 after annexing Crimea.
  • The G-8 is not an official, formal entity and, therefore, has no legislative or authoritative power to enforce the recommended policies and plans it compiles.

Understanding the Group of Eight (G-8)

The G-8 is considered global policymaking at its highest level. Member nations see themselves as an elite and exclusive group, and indeed do wield significant power, as their combined wealth and resources comprise roughly half of the entire global economy.

Leaders from the G-8 nations, including presidents, prime ministers, cabinet members, and economic advisors, assemble in this forum to exchange ideas, brainstorm solutions, and discuss innovative strategies that will benefit each individual nation, as well as the world as a whole. The group's members occasionally work together to help resolve global problems. In the past, they have discussed financial crises, monetary systems, and major world crises like oil shortages, terrorism, and climate change.

The G-8 meets every summer in whichever country holds the rotating, year-long presidency.

While the G-8 holds significant sway, it is not an official, formal entity like the United Nations (UN) and therefore has no legislative or authoritative power. The goal is to find solutions to pressing issues and increase international cooperation, compiling recommended policies and plans that its members can work collaboratively to implement. None of the agreements reached, however, are legally binding.

History of the Group of Eight (G-8)

The origins of the group date back to the early 1970s, when leaders of the U.S., U.K., France, West Germany, Italy, and Japan met informally in Paris to discuss the then recession and oil crisis. Over the years, new members joined, starting with Canada in 1976 and then Russia in 1997. This lineup of eight countries remained active for 17 years until Russia was expelled in 2014.

Russia was suspended from the group after other members disagreed with its annexation of Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine. By 2017, Russia announced its intention to permanently withdraw from the G-8, bringing the number of active members down to seven.

Special Considerations

Without Russia, the G-8 has become the G-7. However, there is still a chance that Russia could rejoin the group again.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been actively campaigning to readmit Russia to the organization. French President Emmanuel Macron now appears to be in agreement with this idea, too, pleading for Russia President Vladimir Putin to be invited to the G-7 conference in 2020, which is set to be hosted by the United States.

Criticism of the Group of Eight (G-8)

Anti-capitalism and anti-globalization protests, some of which have turned violent, have become a prominent fixture at G-8 and G-7 summits. Critics often describe the group as a type of rich countries' club that disregards poor nations in favor of pursuing its own interests.

A lot of complaints in the past have centered around the exclusion of representatives from emerging and developing nations. Critics point out these economies play an increasingly important role in the global marketplace, yet continue to be shunned by the old guard.

Lately, there have been some changes. The U.K. and France pushed to include five emerging economies into the group—Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. These countries are sometimes now involved in talks, leading those particular meetings to be referred to as G-8+5.

Meanwhile, in 1999, a separate intergovernmental organization known as G-20 was founded, consisting of the G-7 members, the European Union (EU), plus 12 other nations: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey. The G-20 has a mandate to promote global economic growth, international trade, and regulation of financial markets.