Group of Eight (G-8): Overview, History, Criticisms

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

The Group of Eight (G-8) was 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 (U.K.), 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 referred to as the G-7.

Key Takeaways

  • The Group of Eight (G-8) was an intergovernmental organization that met 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 didn't have legislative or authoritative power to enforce the recommended policies and plans it compiles. Neither does the G-7.

Understanding the Group of Eight (G-8)

The G-8 was considered global policymaking at its highest level. Member nations wielded significant power, as their combined wealth and resources comprised roughly half of the entire global economy. Leaders from the G-8 nations, including presidents, prime ministers, cabinet members, and economic advisors, would 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 worked 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-7 meets every summer in whichever country holds the rotating, year-long presidency.

While the current G-7 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.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump actively campaigned to readmit Russia to the organization and to be invited to the G-7 conference in 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be in agreement with this idea on the condition Russian President Vladimir Putin end the Ukrainian conflict. However, the meeting was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Criticisms 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 their 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.

Amid the criticisms of G-8, in 2005, the U.K. and France pushed to include five emerging economies into the group—Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. These countries would join the talks periodically, leading those particular meetings to be referred to as G-8+5 or G13. The effort was short-lived.

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
  • Turkey

The G-20 has the mandate to promote global economic growth, international trade, and regulation of financial markets.

Article Sources
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  1. Council on Foreign Relations. "The Group of Eight (G8) Industrialized Nations." Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

  2. Council on Foreign Relations. "Where Is the G7 Headed?" Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

  3. European Parliamentary Research Service. "G7 Summit, June 2021 Asserting Democratic Values in the Post-Crisis Context," Page 2. Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

  4. The New York Times. "Trump Says Russia Should Be Readmitted to G7." Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

  5. Council on Foreign Relations. "The Group of Twenty." Accessed Sept. 29, 2021.

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